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Throughout January, the American Red Cross is celebrating National Blood Donor Month and recognizing the generous individuals who roll up a sleeve to help save lives. The winter months can be especially difficult to collect enough blood and platelets to meet patient needs, and this winter is proving to be a challenging one. John McFarland, Executive Director of South East Mississippi’s Chapter of the Red Cross, says blood is always needed, but winter is when they experience the greatest shortage.
National Blood Donor Month has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter – one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. Inclement winter weather – like what the U.S. is experiencing so far this year – often results in cancelled blood drives, and seasonal illnesses, like the flu, may cause some donors to become temporarily unable to donate.
The Red Cross urges healthy donors who have made a commitment to donate during the winter months to keep their appointments. Each appointment kept, and each donation given, offers hope to a patient in need. McFarland says there are 22 blood drives scheduled along the Coast this month.
“Every 3 seconds someone is needing blood”, he added. “Blood is something that can’t be synthesized or manufactured, so it’s important that there’s an inventory of blood available in the hospitals”, says McFarland.
Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Platelets can be given every seven days – up to 24 times a year. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements. Donors with blood types O negative, B negative, and platelet donors are especially encouraged to make an appointment to give.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org. Donors can also use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, which is free and available for download now. It can be found in app stores by searching for American Red Cross, visiting redcross.org/apps or redcrossblood.org/bloodapp, or by texting BLOODAPP to 90999 for a direct link to download. Message and data rates for texting may apply.