By: Melanie Murby, MLS, Elliot Hospital Blood Bank

Across the United States, there is a blood shortage crisis, a record low for the past 20 years. There are many reasons people might not want to donate blood, for example, a fear of needles or due to time constraints. Donating blood is virtually painless and only takes about an hour of your time from when you check in until you leave.

The need for blood is constant. The only way for hospitals to supply blood to those who need it is by having people regularly donate.

Who can donate blood and what are the options?

To donate a whole blood unit, approximately 17 oz., you must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 lbs. You must be in good health and feeling well on the day of donation and meet all eligibility requirements that are verified before donation. Whole blood units are the most frequently donated. The units are separated into specific components of red cells, plasma, and platelets. Whole blood unit donations help multiple people and only take about 15 minutes to complete.

There are other options for donation with very specific requirements regarding age, height, and weight. For example, to donate a “Power Red”, two red blood cell units are collected in one donation while returning your plasma and platelets, a female donor must be at minimum 19 years old, 5’3” tall, and weigh at least 150 lbs. A male donor must be at minimum 17 years old, 5’1” tall, and weigh at least 130 lbs.

Who should donate blood?

Anyone who meets the donor requirements for height, weight, and age, as well as the eligibility requirements, should donate.

Why is it important to donate blood?

Whole blood units in their separate forms help save many lives including patients who have cancer, blood disorders, and trauma patients. At Elliot Hospital alone, each year, about 1,300 patients receive a transfusion of a blood product. Some patients will receive up to 50 units of red blood cells among other products in order to save their life.

How often should/can someone donate?

To donate a whole blood unit, you can donate every 56 days. That means you could donate five or six times a year!

What are some misconceptions about donating?

People may think they are ineligible due to past eligibility requirements including:
o    Having a tattoo.
o    Having traveled overseas.
o    If they are under 18 years of age.
o    If they are currently taking certain medications.

The current requirements allow many individuals to donate that may not have been able to in the past. Some of the eligibility requirements do have time restrictions though. For example, you would be deferred if you lived or traveled to a malaria-risk country in the last three years.

Donating blood is easy and makes a great impact on those who need it. To learn more or find a blood drive near you, visit