Since 1970, the American Red Cross has been celebrating National Blood Donor Month each January to recognize and encourage the lifesaving practice of blood and platelet donations.
The original choice for a January observance was intentional—winter is one of the most difficult times of the year to ensure enough blood donations to meet needs. Because of the weather and illnesses, fewer blood drive events are scheduled and people are more likely to be unable to donate.
If you are interested in donating blood, you can call the Red Cross (1-800-RED CROSS) to make an appointment or to learn more about requirements. Often, all blood types are needed for donation.
Basic requirements for blood donation:
- Have a light meal and be well hydrated before your appointment.
- Bring ID. A donor card, driver’s license, or two other forms of ID will be accepted.
- Bring a list of medications you are taking.
- When you arrive, you will check in at registration and go over the basic details.
- You will then receive a mini-physical to check your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin. You will also be asked about health history and recent travel.
- The actual donation part takes about 10 minutes, where you will be seated and have blood drawn. (Other types of donations may take much longer.)
- After blood donation, you’ll receive a snack and drink and can leave after about 15 minutes.
Benefits of blood donation
- Saving lives. Of course, that’s the primary reason to make a blood donation. However, there may be some benefits to the donor as well.
- Blood flow may improve. It’s not clear if there are lasting health benefits associated with blood donation, but according to The American Journal of Epidemiology, blood donors are less likely to suffer a heart attack.
- You get a mini-checkup. The physical is required to see your blood pressure and hemoglobin levels. However, the blood itself is checked for 12 different diseases after its donated. If you have any of the conditions, you’ll be notified.
- Iron levels balance out. For the average person who is not anemic or otherwise iron deficient, regular blood donations can help to keep the iron levels from becoming too high.
For more information, eligibility requirements, and other details, you can visit the Red Cross website for more information. You can also contact your doctor if you have questions about whether you can donate blood.