January is National Blood Donor Month: Save A Life

Blood donation
Written by
Jenna Elizabeth
January 7, 2024

Table of Contents

Become a Donor during National Blood Donor Month

The American Red Cross estimates that a blood donation is needed every two seconds in the US. To help address this need, January is National Blood Donor Awareness Month. While 6.8 million blood donors and 13.6 million units of whole blood and red blood cells are collected annually in the United States, more donations are still needed. 

During National Blood Donor Awareness Month, blood banks, organizations, and medical facilities plan events and campaigns, including mobile blood drives, to raise public awareness of the vital need for blood donations. These initiatives strive to debunk myths and false beliefs about blood donation while highlighting the life-saving potential of blood donation. Let’s look at a few facts essential for making a difference and bringing awareness to the importance of blood donation. 

Why Is It Important to Donate Blood?

Millions of Americans would die annually if life-saving blood transfusions were not available. While more and more citizens are beginning to donate blood—thanks to continued public awareness around blood donations and technological improvements—not enough people in the US are actively donating blood. In fact, approximately 38 percent of US residents are eligible to give blood, yet only 2 percent do so each year. 

The consequence? People are waiting weeks or even months for a transfusion because of low blood supply. While the Red Cross collects 13.6 million units of blood from volunteer blood donors, more is needed to meet blood transfusion demand. In addition, as of January 2022, 68 percent of blood centers in the US have under three days of blood supply—the bare minimum necessary to meet regular demand.

Updated statistics by the American Red Cross demonstrate a few more compelling reasons why blood donation is vital:

  • Every day, about 36,000 units of blood are transfused to help cancer patients, surgery patients, trauma patients, burn victims, and others survive and live better lives.
  • Nearly 10,000 units of plasma and 7,000 units of platelets are required in the United States each day.
  • A single-car accident victim may require up to 100 units of blood.
  • Type 1 diabetics and people with sickle cell disease need blood daily.
  • Organ and bone marrow transplant recipients and others undergoing surgery need blood to live. 
  • Blood donations are critical for cancer patients. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.9 million people will be diagnosed with cancer by 2023. Many of them will require blood transfusions daily during their chemotherapy treatment. 
  • A single blood donation can help save more than one life.

Who Is an Eligible Blood Donor?

A person must be in good health to donate blood. Eligibility varies from country to country. According to the American Red Cross, here’s what a person needs to know about eligibility for blood donation in the United States:

  • A person must be at least 17, weigh at least 110 pounds, and have not donated blood in the previous 56 days. 
  • An individual is not eligible to donate blood if they have heart disease, cancer, AIDS, hepatitis, diabetes, anemia, sickle-cell anemia, other blood problems, certain infections, or a history of drug or alcohol abuse within the last 12 months.
  • Individuals cannot donate blood if they have received certain vaccinations within the past year. The most common are yellow fever shots, given to travelers to areas where the virus is prevalent. 
  • An individual cannot donate for two years after receiving the following vaccinations: MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), chickenpox, polio, and nasal flu vaccine.

How to Find a Nearby Blood Bank

Blood donation is an easy way for an individual to facilitate saving a life. Donating one pint of blood takes as little as eight to 10 minutes. To find a blood bank, you may want to do a quick internet search by typing, “Give blood near me.” This search can help you find a blood bank nearby.

Once you find a blood drive, you usually go through several steps before donating your blood. First, you will need to register and provide some personal information. From there, a healthcare professional will perform a brief medical evaluation to ensure your eligibility to donate. This step will also include determining your blood type and performing a mini-health assessment by a trained American Red Cross staff member. After this, a staff member will monitor your blood pressure, hemoglobin, and pulse during blood donation. The blood will be tested further for infectious diseases and sickle cell trait screening. 

After donating blood, donors generally receive a refreshment or a snack during a short observation period. If donors don’t feel any secondary effects, they can be on their way, knowing they have contributed to saving a life or two. 

Why Is Determining Blood Type Important When Donating Blood?

Compatible blood types increase the chances of a successful transfusion. Matching blood types also ensures the safety and well-being of the recipient. Furthermore, a safe transfusion requires knowing whether their blood type is positive or negative for the Rh factor. There are four principal blood groups: A, B, AB, and O. In addition, each blood type can either be RhD-positive or RhD-negative. The AB blood type is the universal recipient, meaning it can accept donations from any other type. Meanwhile, O negative is the universal donor of red blood cells and can donate to any variation of blood types. 

If blood types are incompatible, the recipient may experience potentially fatal reactions, such as the breakdown of red blood cells. Therefore, it’s essential to determine blood type before donating blood.

Are There Any Benefits of Donating Blood?

Yes! According to one medical study, donating blood, besides access to a free health screening, could help lower cholesterol and protect an individual against heart disease. Plus, donating one pint a year may help reduce the likelihood of a heart attack by 88 percent. Another study shows that regular blood donors have a 30 percent reduced chance of dying from any disease. 

Where Can I Donate Plasma?

Plasma donation is another proactive way to participate in Blood Awareness Month. In a plasma-only donation, the liquid component of the donor’s blood is isolated from the cells and is collected through a needle. It is then passed through a machine that separates the plasma and then returns the remaining components of the blood to the donor. Collected plasma can produce life-saving medications for patients with various medical conditions. 

You can find plasma donation centers by simply searching for “plasma donation near me” or “plasma center near me.” More than 300 plasma donation places are kept open by CSL Plasma across the United States. Visit the website to find a center nearby and learn more about plasma procedures. 

Can You Get Paid to Donate Blood or Plasma?

Blood donations are rarely paid for because many organizations carrying blood drives are non-profit entities. During a blood crisis, a person should donate blood based on moral obligation instead of seeking capital gain. 

On the other hand, plasma donation centers may compensate donors for their time and labor. Depending on the location and donation center, this compensation amount is variable. While some donation centers have a set price per donation, others might have a tiered system where the amount paid out rises with each blood donation. Some plasma centers might provide rewards or incentives to regular donors.

It’s crucial to remember that to protect donor safety and moral behavior, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies regulate compensation for plasma donation. 

This January, Donate Blood and Save a Life

The need for blood never stops. According to one source, the blood shortage crisis would end if just one more percent of all Americans would be willing to donate blood. Blood is a necessary part of everyday life and imperative to survival. We need blood to clot wounds, carry oxygen throughout our bodies, and breathe. 

Giving blood, therefore, can help someone live a longer life and save lives in an emergency. The first step is taking action. The American Red Cross is an excellent resource for first-time blood donors and individuals looking for a blood drive nearby. Also, learn about World Blood Donor Day and join Nursa in supporting the cause.

Blog published on:
January 7, 2024

Meet Jenna, a contributing copywriter at Nursa who writes about healthcare news and updates, empathy and compassion for nurses, how to show staff appreciation and increase retention, and guides that help nurses navigate career pathways.

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