January is National Blood Month

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Every January, National Blood Donor Month provides people an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and donate blood or pledge to give blood at a time of the year when this lifesaving resource is typically in short supply.

Blood donations typically decrease due to unpredictable weather conditions that often result in blood drive cancellations. In addition, blood donations normally decline during the busy end-of-year holidays, so blood centers and hospital collection sites often face shortages at the beginning of the New Year.

“While 60 percent of people in New Jersey are eligible to donate blood, only 3.6 percent of them do,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “National Blood Donor Month is an excellent time to make a blood donation and make a significant difference in someone’s life. Blood is needed 365 days a year – not just during disasters.”

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion due to illness, to treat an injury or during surgery, according to the American Red Cross. A single unit of blood from one donor can save up to three lives.

There is no artificial substitute for blood. New Jersey’s blood centers are encouraging donors to explore a range of donation options by contacting their nearest blood center and asking what the greatest needs are for donations at a given time.

Whole blood donation, the most common type of blood donation, usually takes about an hour, though the actual donation takes about eight to 10 minutes during which approximately a pint of “whole blood” is given. People are eligible to donate whole blood every 56 days.

Another option is donating platelets, which are a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients, burn victims and bone marrow recipients. Unlike whole blood, which has a shelf life of 42 days, platelets must be transfused within five days of donation, so hospitals must have a steady supply on hand. Platelets can be donated every seven days up to 24 times a year.

Plasma also is needed and often used in trauma situations. Plasma is the clear, straw-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed. It is the essential starting material used in the manufacture of therapies that help people with rare, chronic diseases to live healthier, productive lives. Plasma can be donated every 28 days or up to 13 times a year.

A fourth donation option is double red cell donation, which is similar to whole blood donation except a special machine is used to allow the donor to safely donate two units of red blood cells in one donation while receiving back the platelets and plasma. This procedure lets the donor give more of that portion of the blood that is needed most by patients. Donors are eligible to give every 112 days.

National Blood Donor Month has been observed every January since 1970 to raise awareness of the need for blood during the winter and throughout the year. Individuals who are at least 17 years of age (16 with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may donate blood in New Jersey. Check out the American Red Cross’ Eligibility FAQs https://www.redcrossblood.org/faq.html#eligibility

To learn more about blood donation in New Jersey and to schedule an appointment to donate, visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/.

Follow New Jersey Health Commissioner Elnahal on Twitter.

Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth, Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.

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