PINE BLUFF — January is National Blood Donor Month, Teresa Henson, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Extension specialist – nutrition outreach coordinator, said. Arkansans can kick-off the new year by helping to save lives through donating blood.
“Former President Richard Nixon initiated National Blood Donor Month on December 31, 1969,” she said. “Each January, the American Red Cross celebrates the occasion by recognizing the life-saving dedication of blood donors.”
Henson said the month of January was originally chosen for the awareness campaign to highlight the need for blood and platelet donations during the winter months. During this time, less blood is donated because of donor cancellations due to cold and inclement weather and sicknesses such as flu and frequent colds.
“Blood cannot be made or manufactured,” Henson said. “Therefore, blood donations are the only way people can give to individuals who need it. Remember that a single blood donation can help up to three people with different blood components.”
According to the American Red Cross, blood donations are needed:
• Every two seconds. Twenty-one million blood components are transfused in the U.S. each year.
• To stem blood supply shortages due to natural disasters. In the wake of hurricanes, for instance, blood drives are often cancelled, and donation centers are closed.
• For the treatment of accident victims, cancer patients and those in hospitals.
Henson said individuals who want to donate blood must:
• Be 17 years of age or older. Donors must have proof of age to ensure they meet the minimum age requirements and present a primary form of ID or two secondary forms of ID.
• Weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.
• Provide information about their medical history (conditions and medications).
• Wait at least eight weeks between blood donations.
“Many people are reluctant to make their first blood donation,” Henson said. “Some may worry they are not eligible for various reasons. Others simply fear needles. If this is your case, but you are willing to spend just a few minutes facing your fears, you may find that the satisfaction you feel after donating makes it worth it.”
The process of donating blood is safe and easy, Henson said. A whole blood donation takes about 8-10 minutes, during which an individual is seated comfortably or lying down. When around a pint of whole blood has been collected, the donation is complete, and a staff person will place a bandage on the donor’s arm.
“After donating blood, you’ll have a snack and something to drink in the refreshment area and can then leave in 10 to 15 minutes,” she said. “Then you should enjoy the feeling of accomplishment, knowing you are helping save lives. You can even take a selfie or simply share your good deed with friends – it may inspire them to become blood donors.”
For more information on blood donation eligibility and the process itself, visit www.redcrossblood.org or contact your local Red Cross.