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Ohio Department of Aging Aging Connection - January 2010

January 2010

Blood Donors Give Life
The Need Is Greater than Ever

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day. Just one blood donation can help save up to three lives. According to the American Red Cross, there is a 97 percent chance that someone you know will need a blood transfusion. However, while the need for blood is increasing dramatically as the population ages, blood donations are down. Blood has a shelf life of only 42 days, but only five percent of those who are eligible to give blood actually do.

Blood donation

Blood service providers across the country have designated January as National Volunteer Blood Donor Month to educate Americans about the importance of regular blood donation and the impact it can have on patients in need. Typically, blood supplies reach dangerously low levels during the winter months. People are unable to make or keep donation appointments due to the difficulty of traveling during winter weather. Many have the false idea that blood is needed most during large scale disasters. Others are under the incorrect impression that they cannot give blood because of their age or physical condition.

There is no upper age limit for donating blood. In fact, approximately four percent of American blood donors are over age 65. While the majority of donors are under 65, older donors tend to donate blood more frequently. The average donation frequency for the 24 to 44 age group is 1.6 times a year. The 65 and older age group give blood an average of 2.4 times a year.

To give blood, a donor needs to be healthy, be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and not have donated whole blood in the last eight weeks. "Healthy" means that you feel well and can perform normal activities. If the potential donor has a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, "healthy" also means that the condition is being treated and is under control.

In almost all cases, the medications a person takes will not disqualify him or her as a blood donor. Donor eligibility is based on the reason that the medication was prescribed, and as long as the condition is under control and the donor is healthy, blood donation is usually permitted. Over-the-counter oral medications, herbal remedies and nutritional supplements also are acceptable.

If a person has never given blood before, there are several things he or she can do to make this simple procedure even easier:

  • Get a good night's sleep the night before your donation.
  • Eat a good breakfast or lunch.
  • Drink plenty of liquids like milk, juice or soda ahead of time.
  • After donating, go about your normal daily activities, just avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise.

If you are a regular blood donor, take time to make your next appointment now. If you have never donated before, you can find more information and schedule your first appointment by visiting www.redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-448-3543. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients.