Get the facts about blood donation and save a life

[5 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • Hospitals around the country are facing a critical blood shortage – many have less than a day’s supply.

  • National Blood Donor Month aims to raise awareness and inspire people to roll up their sleeves and give blood.

  • There are many steps you can take if you’re feeling nervous, including learning about the process.

  • Your donation could help save up to three lives.

  • Not everyone is eligible to donate blood, so be sure to review the criteria before scheduling your appointment. 

Every January, National Blood Donor Month aims to encourage people to get out and donate blood. Blood banks around the country typically see a drop in donations in the winter months. That’s because people may be recovering from the holidays or don’t want to (or can’t) fight the weather to get to a local blood drive. Seasonal illnesses, like the cold and flu, also spike this time of year – making many people ineligible to donate blood. (You must be healthy to give blood.)

This drop will only compound the critical national blood shortage hospitals are currently facing. The American Red Cross estimates that many hospitals have less than a day’s supply of blood products. The culprit for the current shortage is the same culprit that has upended our lives for the past two years – the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individuals were unable or unsure if it was safe to give blood during shutdowns in the spring of 2020. Not to mention, scheduled blood drives at workplaces and around the community were canceled as people stayed home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Now, the Red Cross and health officials around the country are calling for blood donations.

If you’ve considered giving blood but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, please take a few minutes to learn about blood donation. Your donation can help save a life (or several).

Get the facts about donating blood

Did you know that the entire blood donation process only takes about 8-10 minutes? It’s a short period of time that can make a major impact on the lives of others. The first step in deciding if you’re ready to donate is to learn about the process and what you can donate.

For instance, did you know you can donate more than just blood? There are several blood products needed by healthcare organizations around our country and each type serves an important role in saving lives:

  • Whole blood. The most common type of blood donation, whole blood simply refers to the blood that flows through your veins. It may be given to anyone who has lost significant blood, including during surgery or after a trauma.
  • Red blood cells. When separated from whole blood, red blood cells (RBCs) can be used to help treat anemia.
  • Platelets. Collected during a special process that uses an apheresis machine or separated from a whole blood donation, platelets are often given to cancer patients or individuals undergoing organ transplant surgery.
  • Plasma. The liquid portion of your blood, plasma helps maintain blood pressure, supports immunity, encourages clotting, and carries electrolytes to muscles. It is collected during whole blood donation and then separated from the cells and platelets in the blood.

Still have questions about the blood donation process? Learn more about what you can expect.

Donating blood: The facts

Frequently asked questions about blood donation

How blood donations help patients

Nervous about donating? Don’t be!

We completely understand the process can be a little nerve-wracking for first-time (and yes, even repeat donors).

But don’t let that stop you. You can rest assured that the professionals that staff blood drives around the community are experienced and understanding. Here are a few time-tested tips and tricks to help the experience go smoothly for you. That includes:

  • Bring a friend. Make a date with a friend or loved one. Not only will you both be doing good for your community, but you’ll also be able to distract each other from the (painless) process. Bonus – reward yourself with a fun little outing or treat once you’re finished!
  • Listen to music or an audiobook. Distract yourself with some favorite tunes or a book you can’t wait to finish. Or, cue up your favorite podcast and let yourself be carried away to a different world.
  • Speak up. Let the person drawing your blood know if you’re nervous. They’ll keep up a steady stream of chatter to help distract you and, if you’re interested, share what they’re doing at every step.
  • Don’t look! It can be tempting to watch the process but if you think you might be squeamish, keep your head turned away from the needle and blood collection bag.

Still looking for inspiration? Review these articles about the importance of donating blood and what you can expect during your appointment.

Got 15 minutes? Save three lives.

Donate blood on a regular basis

What to do before, during, and after donating blood

Tips for first-time donors

Double-check that you’re eligible

Hospitals around the country are in desperate need of blood products, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that all donations can be accepted. Generally, you must meet the following guidelines for donating blood:

  • Be in general good health
  • Feel well (not actively sick with an illness)
  • Be at least 17 years old (or have parental consent if 16 years)
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Have not donated blood in the last 56 days

5 surprising reasons you can’t donate blood

Requirements by donation type

Special considerations for blood donation

Ready to help? Visit the American Red Cross to make an appointment to donate blood.

Or visit the Providence hub for donating blood.

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Find a doctor

If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services.

Related resources

Donating blood: The facts

Make a lifesaving New Year’s resolution: Donate blood on a regular basis

Got 15 minutes? Save three lives

5 surprising reasons you can’t donate blood

Cold? Flu? COVID? How do I know?

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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