Needed: Holiday Blood Donations

The need for life-saving blood can increase during the winter months, right when donations lag.

Diagnostics Testing|Dec.11, 2018

'Tis the season of giving. But, this time of year, most of us are so busy giving socks, sweaters and the latest video games that we don't think to give the gift that could save lives.

According to blood services, the winter months (November through January) see some of the year's lowest numbers of blood donations.

During the holidays, many institutions pause blood drives due to hectic schedules and holiday breaks. This is really important as 80 percent of blood drives are organized by volunteer coordinators who are also busy with festivities.

Weather can be another roadblock to blood donations, with snowstorms and severe weather prompting cancellations of blood drives and keeping potential donors away.

The Need For Blood Never Goes on Holiday

It's estimated that, in the United States, every two seconds, someone needs blood. Sometimes, it's to treat chronic conditions such as cancer or sickle cells disease, and, in others, it's to save someone's life in an emergency such as a car accident. It's important to remember that holiday rushes and travels through tough winter weather can contribute to increased roadway and travel-related accidents and injuries.

What Do Eggnog and Blood Have in Common? They Both Expire

So why can't blood services stock up on blood? Blood actually has a pretty short shelf life. Red blood cells can be stored for up to 42 days before transfusion, and platelets, which help bone marrow transplant, cancer and leukemia patients, only last for five days before they can no longer be used.

Your Family May Benefit

Families are impacted by blood donations.

Having a supply of blood on hand was key to saving the life of Abbott's John Hackett and his daughter in 1999. Hackett, whose job at Abbott helps with keeping the blood supply safe, shares his story: "In June 1999, my family was 15 minutes from home, coming around a curve, when we were hit head on by another car. My daughter had to undergo emergency surgery and lost her spleen. I had to undergo multiple surgical procedures that required blood transfusions. But my family and I were very fortunate. I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for generous blood donors and the excellent medical care I received."

John decided to return the favor by becoming a regular blood donor to help others who find themselves in need of this life-saving gift.

Discussing blood donation as a family is especially important as blood centers have reported seeing lower turnout for people in their 20s and 30s. Currently, about 60 percent of blood donations are made by people older than 40 years old. Of that number, three-quarters of blood donations come from people older than 50.

Are You in the Giving Spirit? Make an Appointment to Donate.

As you're planning your holiday gift list, consider adding "donate blood." The whole process takes about an hour – even less than it does to take in a holiday movie. Even better: Your donation could help save up to three people's lives. Blood can be given as a whole to patients or divided into separate components, with each one meeting a different need.

Are you eligible to donate blood? Most likely. Although about 10 percent of Americans give blood each year, closer to 38 percent are eligible. In most states, individuals who are 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. In some states, teenagers at least 16 are able to give blood with parental consent.

Want to learn more about blood donation? Check out these resources:

To give blood this season, plug your zip code into the BE THE 1 Donor website listed above to find a donation center near you.