Blood transfusions help people survive cancer, surgeries, blood disorders, traumatic injuries, and more. Still, less than 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to give blood or platelets. According to the American Red Cross, the need is urgent—someone in the U.S. needs blood or platelets every two seconds, and one donation has the potential to save up to three lives!
Why One Donor Gives Blood
“I give blood to give others a chance at life. When my mom was first diagnosed with stage four cancer, she needed several blood transfusions. Without blood donors, she wouldn’t be here. This is my way to give back and maybe save someone else’s mom or dad.”
Do you know your blood type? When you give blood for the first time, you’ll also learn your blood type. The most common types are A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, AB-.
The blood type most often requested by hospitals is type O — it’s considered “universal”. It can be safely transfused to those with any blood type.
- Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U. S.
- Nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S.
- Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
- The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 units.
- One car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood.
- According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1.8 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer annually. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
- Sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require blood transfusions throughout their lives.
Four Ways to Donate
Did you know there are four different ways to donate blood? All potential donors are screened, and their blood is typed. (Donors with type AB blood are ideal donors for AB Elite plasma or platelet donations—see below.) All donors must also be in good health and feeling well. Guidelines may vary—the American Red Cross determines final eligibility at the time of donation.
1. Whole Blood Donation
Donations of whole blood are the most common and flexible type of donation—those with any blood type are needed. Whole blood includes red cells, white cells, and platelets, suspended in plasma. Whole blood can be used in its entire form or separated into red cells, plasma, and platelets to help many more people. Donating whole blood takes about an hour.
- Whole blood can be donated every 56 days.
- You must be at least 16 years old in most states and weigh at least 110 pounds.
2. Power Red Donation
Power Red is only for donors with type O, A negative, or B negative blood. It uses a particular machine so you can donate two units of red blood cells as it returns plasma and platelets to you. Red blood cells are the most frequently needed by patients who require transfusion. It takes about 1½ hours. Power Red donors have additional eligibility requirements:
- Donation frequency: Every 112 days—up to 3 times/year.
- Male donors must be at least 17 years old in most states, at least 5’1″ tall, and weigh at least 130 pounds.
- Female donors must be at least 19 years old, at least 5’5″ tall, and weigh at least 150 pounds.
3. Platelet Donation
Platelets are the cells that make clots to stop bleeding. Someone needs platelets every 15 seconds, and these donations are no longer usable after 5 days.
- Donation frequency: Every 7 days, up to 24 times/year.
- You must be at least 17 years old in most states and weigh at least 110 pounds.
4. AB Elite Plasma Donation
You must have type AB blood to donate. One donation of plasma can provide up to 4 units. Blood is drawn from one arm and sent through a plasma-collecting machine, then returns red cells and platelets to you mixed with saline. It just takes a few minutes longer than a whole blood donation.
- Donation frequency: Every 28 days, up to 13 times/year.
- You must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds.
Blood Donation Process
To make a blood donation, make an appointment at a blood drive online or through the Red Cross Blood Donation app. When you arrive, you will be given some information to read about the donation process. Next, you’ll answer a few screening questions and complete a mini-physical (i.e., temperature check, blood pressure evaluation, hemoglobin screening) to evaluate your eligibility to donate. If you’re eligible, you’ll take a seat on a tall cot, where a phlebotomist will oversee your donation. They will have visual contact with you throughout the process and check in regularly to ensure that the process is going smoothly and that you’re feeling okay. The donation itself only takes about ten minutes. Following your donation, you’ll rest for 10 to 15 minutes, eat some snacks, and drink some water or juice to replenish your fluids and give your blood sugar a boost.
If you’re unable to give blood due to ineligibility, you can volunteer at a blood drive or make a donation to help support the Red Cross’s humanitarian support to families and communities. Find a donation center near you.
Blood Emergency Message from the Red Cross
Donors are strongly urged to give now to help ensure lifesaving blood products are available for patients. Your donation is needed urgently to prevent delays in patient care. Help overcome the severe blood shortage and save a life!