Blood donations fluctuate at different times during the year. Cold weather in winter months and busy vacation schedules in summer months can make it difficult for blood centers to collect donations. The American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) reminds Americans that blood donations are taken year-round.
“Although people often postpone blood donations for seasonal reasons, the need for blood persists throughout the year,” explains Alan Langnas, DO, an osteopathic surgeon practicing in Omaha, Nebraska. “As our population ages and medical advancements require blood transfusions, the need for blood continues to increase.”
AABB estimates that 8 million volunteers donate blood each year. More than 26.5 million units of blood components are transfused every year.
“When blood donations are made, the blood is separated into several components including red blood cells, plasma, platelets and other elements,” Dr. Langnas explains. “Each component serves a different need.”
Approximately 38,000 units of blood are required in hospitals and emergency treatment facilities throughout the country each day. Blood donations are used for many different procedures including trauma victim care; heart surgery; organ transplants; and treatment for leukemia and cancer.
Universal requirements for giving blood ask that donors be in good health according to the physical and health history examinations given prior to donation, and that they weigh at least 110 pounds. While the minimum age requirement differs from state to state, most blood banks do not have an age limit for donations. Detailed information about those who should not donate blood is available at any donation location.
While fewer than 5% of eligible healthy Americans donate blood each year, Dr. Langnas notices a growing trend in autologous blood donation. This process allows a patient to donate his or her own blood in the weeks prior to their non-emergency surgery.
What to Expect
Blood donation can be made at community blood centers, hospital-based donor centers, or bloodmobiles that travel to specially authorized locations.
Some common side effects of blood donation include:
Occasional light-headedness or dizziness during or after the donation
Possible bruising and soreness around the place where the needle was inserted
Fatigued for some time. If this condition persists, contact the attending physician.
“The body replenishes the fluid lost from donation in approximately 24 hours,” Dr. Langnas explains, “but it may take up to two months to replace the red blood cells, which is why a blood bank can only accept whole blood from someone once every eight weeks.”
Dr. Langnas further explains that donating blood is an excellent way to help others: "By taking about 10 to 20 minutes of your time, you can help to save lives.”
Visit the AABB website for donation locations or consult the yellow pages to locate a blood center or hospital near you.