Donating blood is a tangible way to help people who are struggling with serious health conditions, yet many people may not think about it or make time for it.
In January—which the American Red Cross has dubbed National Blood Donor Month—blood bank supplies are typically among the lowest of the year, as many people have been traveling or busy with the holidays. Inclement weather can also cancel planned blood drives or prevent donors from getting to donation sites.
Gwen Howell, blood bank chief technologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, said some people don’t donate because they are afraid to be stuck with a needle. Others simply overlook donating, assuming that someone else is doing it or that their donation may not make much of a difference.
Blood and blood products are necessary for patients who need transfusions after stabbings, gunshot wounds, or accidents that land them in the emergency department. They are also used for transplant and cancer patients, premature infants, and others.
Most adults, and 17-year-olds with parental permission, can donate blood, with the exception of those who have had cancer or cancer-related surgery within five years, those with severe cardiac conditions, and those who have gotten a tattoo in the past year. Additionally, donors whose hemoglobin levels indicate anemia may be prevented from donating..
Melissa George, DO, medical director of the blood bank at the Medical Center, said many people find blood donation to be a satisfying way to give back.
“A lot of donors say it makes them feel very fulfilled,” she said.
This article was adapted from information provided by Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.