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Winter Weather and Flu Impact Red Cross Blood Collections

Leroy Straight averages 20-24 visits per year to the Donor Center to give platelets.
Healthy, eligible donors are encouraged to give blood or platelets in areas where it is safe to do so.

Winter weather and frigid temperatures bearing down on many parts of the country are affecting the ability of blood and platelet donors to give. Since the beginning of January, more than 50 American Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled in 15 states due to inclement weather, resulting in about 2,000 units of blood uncollected. Approximately 15,000 units of blood are needed every day to maintain a sufficient supply of blood and platelets for patients in need.

Severe weather isn’t the only factor preventing donors from rolling up a sleeve. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is widespread across the country. Flu symptoms may be preventing many regular blood and platelet donors from keeping their scheduled appointments.

Though winter weather and seasonal illness may affect donations, hospital patients still need transfusions of blood and platelets. Eligible donors who feel well and live in areas not affected by winter weather are encouraged to make an appointment to give now. Each appointment kept, and each donation given, offers hope to a patient in need.

Eligible donors with types O negative, A negative and B negative blood are especially urged to give at this time. Type O negative is the universal blood type and can be transfused to anyone who needs blood. Types A negative and B negative can be transfused to Rh positive or negative patients.

Platelet donors are also encouraged to make a donation appointment as soon as possible. Platelets – a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients, burn victims and bone marrow recipients – must be transfused within five days of donation, so it’s important to have a steady supply of platelets on hand.

Throughout January, the Red Cross is recognizing National Blood Donor Month to honor the lifesaving contribution blood and platelet donors make to modern healthcare. The special month has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter – one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs.

Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Platelets can be given every seven days – up to 24 times a year. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org. Donors can also use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, which is free and available for download now. It can be found in app stores by searching for American Red Cross, visiting redcross.org/apps or redcrossblood.org/bloodapp, or by texting BLOODAPP to 90999 for a direct link to download. Message and data rates for texting may apply.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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