January is National Blood Donor Month. The gift of blood is one of the most valuable gifts you can give. The need for blood is ever present, and the pandemic has made the demand even greater. Blood is needed everyday for those involved in traumatic injuries, surgeries, cancer treatments, and other chronic diseases. Blood can be stored and the red cells, platelets and plasma broken out based on individual need.

According to the American Red Cross, someone in the US needs blood every 2 seconds. One donation can save up to 3 lives. Blood and platelets can only come from donors, and cannot be created in a lab. Lastly, only 38% of the population is eligible to donate blood. For these reason, and many more, join the 6.8 million Americans who donate blood each year.

Giving blood can have some potential health benefits for the donor, that often go unrecognized:

  1. Donating blood requires a free mini-physical. A health care professional will check your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, hemoglobin and iron levels. This information may shed light on a health issue that requires attention. Your blood is also tested for several infectious diseases like West Nile Virus and Hepatitis B and C. This year you will also be tested for COVID antibodies.
  1. Your body will burn approximately 500 calories to replace the blood you donate. Donation is easier than running the 5 miles it would take to burn that many calories.
  1. Lastly blood donation will give you great satisfaction in doing something for others. Studies prove that donating time, or blood, leads to an overall feeling of well-being and reduces stress. It can also be a community enhancing activity as most blood drives are done in your local community.

Check out the American Red Cross website to find a blood drive near you. You can enter your zip code, and find upcoming donation sites. Special protocols are being followed, to during the pandemic, to ensure the safety of donors.

To be eligible to donate blood you must:

  • Be 17 years of age
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Be in good health
  • Acknowledge your medical conditions and medications. These may impact your eligibility.
  • Allowed at least 8 weeks between whole blood donations

As you prepare to donate:

  • Stay properly hydrated in the days leading up to the donation. Drink extra water prior to your appointment.
  • Ensure a good night’s sleep the night before your donation.
  • Eat a complete meal before your donation, avoiding high fat foods.
  • Feel free to exercise before you donate, but refrain from strenuous exercise for 5 hours after donation.

The process of donating blood involves completing a health questionnaire, participating in a mini physical by a healthcare professional, the actual donation, (which most find relaxing) observation time to make sure you are fine, and of course a healthy snack and water. Allow at least an hour for the donation process from start to finish.

This year, give one of the most valuable gifts …..your lifesaving blood. Your gift may help ensure the life of another.

by Christy Coughlin

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