January is National Blood Donor Month. It’s also a difficult time of year to collect blood donations due to snowstorms and flu season. Last January, the American Red Cross had to cancel hundreds of blood drives due to winter weather, causing thousands blood and platelet donations to go uncollected. We don’t know how severe it will be this year, but we do know from past experience that snow, ice and seasonal illnesses affect a blood donor’s ability to give.
To help prepare for your blood donation, the Red Cross has nine tips to know before donating blood in 2019.
- Your whole blood donation appointment will take approximately one hour. In the time, it takes to complete one whole blood donation appointment, 1,800 patients in the U.S. will have needed lifesaving blood products. To make your donation more comfortable, come prepared. Be sure to wear a t-shirt or a top with sleeves that can be rolled-up easily and bring your favorite book, movie or music to relax with.
- You don’t need to know your blood type. According to a national survey conducted in April 2018, on behalf of the Red Cross, more than 53 percent of people believe they need to know their blood type to donate blood—this is simply not true. We need donors of all blood types to ensure a sufficient supply for patients. Donors may be notified of their blood type following their donation when they receive their blood donor card or by creating a profile through the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
- You must be in good health. Seasonal illnesses like the flu can affect a blood donor’s ability to give. Most medication will not disqualify you from being able to donate, but if you have questions please visit RedCrossBlood.org.
- Rest and relax. Get a good night’s sleep before your donation and avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activity afterwards. If you experience dizziness or lightheadedness, stop what you’re doing and sit or lie down until you feel better.
- Hydrate and eat a healthy meal before your donation. It is important that before giving blood donors drink plenty of fluids (an extra four 8-ounce glasses of fluids) and eat nutritious foods, rich in iron and vitamin C such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans spinach, iron-fortified cereals or raisins.
- You’re never too old to donate blood. While in most states, you must be at least 17 years old to donate blood, there is no upper age limit. In fact, many elderly individuals are some of our most dedicated blood donors, and we encourage others to join them in helping ensure blood products are available for people in need.
- Speed up your donation by completing a RapidPass online health history questionnaire. RapidPass can also be completed on mobile devices, through the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
- Don’t forget your FREE post-donation snack. Blood contains many substances including red blood cells (full of iron), white blood cells, plasma and platelets, plus water and various nutrients and minerals, which is why it’s critical that donors replenish their bodies with post-donation snacks and fluids.
- Scheduling a blood donation appointment is EASY! All eligible individuals can make an appointment by using the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).