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American Red Cross Issues Emergency Call for Blood Donors

 

January 17, 2019



A donation shortfall over the winter holidays is prompting the American Red Cross to issue an emergency call for blood and platelet donors to give now to prevent a blood shortage from continuing throughout winter and affecting patient care.

The Red Cross collected more than 27,000 fewer blood and platelet donations the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s than needed to sustain a sufficient blood supply. During this period, about 1,350 fewer blood drives were hosted by volunteer sponsor groups than required to meet patient needs as busy holiday schedules kept many donors away.

“Many people may not realize that blood products are perishable, and the only source of lifesaving blood for patients is volunteer blood donors,” Cliff Numark, senior vice president, Red Cross Biomedical Services, said. “When donations decline – as they did around the holidays and may further decline if severe winter weather and flu season pick up – lifesaving medical treatments could be delayed.”

Right now, the Red Cross has less than a three-day supply of most blood types on hand, well below the ideal five-day supply needed to respond to emergencies and daily hospital needs. Blood products are currently being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in.

“We hope people can resolve to save lives now – when there is an emergency need – as well as throughout the year,” Numark said.

All eligible donors, especially platelet donors and blood donors with type O blood, are urged to make an appointment to give in the coming days to help restock the shelves for hospital patients.

Eligible donors can find a blood or platelet donation opportunity and schedule an appointment to donate by using the free Blood Donor app, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling (1-800) RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Volunteer blood drive hosts are also critically needed to prevent the shortage from worsening this winter.

Weather Poses Risk to Blood Supply

With several weeks of winter ahead, severe winter weather poses an additional threat to an already low blood supply. Snow, ice and extreme temperatures last January and February forced hundreds of blood drive cancellations, causing about 23,000 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected. In December, winter weather resulted in nearly twice the number of uncollected blood and platelet donations as December 2017.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), 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. 

 

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