The American Red Cross has issued an urgent call for blood and platelet donors, citing the need to cover a shortage resulting from extreme winter weather and fewer collections.
The organization, which provides about 40% of the blood supply in the United States, is asking eligible donors to make an appointment as soon as possible. People with diseases such as sickle cell anemia rely on the donations.
Extreme weather conditions – which forced blood drives to be canceled – and a decline in donor activity during the holiday season contributed to there being more than 40,000 fewer donations in November and December.
The Red Cross is extending hours at several donation centers to give people more opportunities to donate blood and platelets. Nearly 200 hours have been added at collection centers and for community blood drives over the next few weeks.
“Hospital patients need lifesaving blood this winter, and they’re relying on the generosity of volunteer donors to provide hope in the days and weeks ahead,” Chris Hrouda, executive vice president of Red Cross Blood Services, said in a press release.
Donors must be 17 or older (16 with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.
Appointments may be made using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, by vising the organization’s website or by calling 800-733-2767. Donors are encouraging to take the RapidPass online questionnaire, which will speed up the collection process.
All blood types are needed, but people with types O, A negative, and B negative are urged to make a “Power Red” donation, providing a concentrated dose of red blood cells during a single donation.
Platelets and plasma are both critical components of blood (cancer patients are often in need of platelets). Patients who need platelet donations must receive a transfusion within five days of collection, which makes platelets a highly perishable blood product and always in high demand. Plasma helps maintain blood pressure and supplies proteins critical to clotting and immunity. It is often needed after a person suffers a burn or other trauma, as well as for patients with clotting factor deficiencies.
Donors with AB blood type are urged to donate platelets or plasma, as well as whole blood.
“The Red Cross is doing everything it can to ensure blood products are available on the shelves when patients need it, but we can’t do it alone. We need eligible individuals to give blood and platelets as soon as possible,” Hrouda said.