January is National Blood Donor Month, the month in which we celebrate voluntary blood donors. It was actually signed into observance by the President back in 1969, so has been observed for over 50 years. January is also the time of year in which the national blood reserves are at their lowest. Although up to 40% of Americans are eligible to donate, less than 10% actually do.

According to the American Red Cross, “When you come in to donate, you help provide lifesaving care to patients in need. But you also receive the added benefit of a free mini-health assessment, provided by a trained Red Cross staff member.

Prior to donating blood, all donors will receive a free health screening. At the time of your donation, your blood pressure, hemoglobin, and pulse will be checked. We record these vitals in your online donor profile where you can track and monitor your results. You can access this information as well as past health information obtained during prior donations, at any time. Your online profile is a great resource to track your health goals and share with your care providers. Your health is an important part of your donor journey and key to continuing to help others in need.”

Can older Americans donate?

While there are requirements to be able to donate blood, maximum age is not one of them. It’s a myth that seniors aren’t able to donate. According to the American Red Cross, as long as an individual meets the standards requirements, upper age is not a factor.

However, some states do have additional requirements for people over the age of 65, such as requiring a doctor’s note indicating good health prior to giving blood. Click here to find an agency in your area who will be able to tell you what the specific state requirements may be.

What are the requirements to be able to donate?

The basic requirements according to the American Red Cross are:

  • Be in good general health and feeling well.
  • Be at least 17 years old in most states (16 years old with parental consent in some states).
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds. Additional weight requirements apply for donors 18 years old and younger and all high school donors.
  • Have not donated blood in the last 56 days.

Common questions

What do I need to do to prepare?

  • When making the appointment, be sure to ask about additional state requirements based on your age
  • Be sure that you are well hydrated
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before
  • Eat a light but healthy meal before your appointment

What if?

I’m afraid of needles. This is a common concern and a valid one. There are a number of ways to manage your fear and still be able to donate. Knowing the most possible about the donation process ahead of time will help. During your appointment, let the staff know you have a fear of needles and they will help you to relax. Listening to music, closing your eyes and using other anxiety management tactics will help.

I’m afraid I’ll faint. If you meet the health requirements for donation, the likelihood of fainting is low. Most people feel fine after a donation. But it is not unheard of to feel a little lightheaded. After the donation takes place, you’ll be able to have a snack and relax until you feel fine to leave. Resting the rest of the day may be needed for the small amount of people who feel fatigued after a donation.

Is it safe? Donating blood is completely safe. The donation centers use single-use, sterile needles for each and every donation. This means there is no chance of catching of any infectious disease from donating.

The process of donating blood

Once you have determined that you’re eligible, the donation itself doesn’t take very long. Upon arrival, you will:

  • Sign in and go over basic eligibility
  • Show your ID (like your driver’s license)
  • Read some information about blood donation
  • Have a private and confidential interview in which you’ll answer some questions about your medical history and medications you may be taking
  • Have your vitals taken (blood pressure, temperature, hemoglobin levels, etc.)
  • Be taken to the donation area to relax in a (usually reclining) chair
  • Have your arm cleaned and the needle inserted (just a quick pinch)

For a whole blood donation, the complete drawing process usually only takes about 10 minutes. Including the consult prior to your donation and the 10-15 minutes of refreshment and relaxation time after the donation, you can expect to be at your appointment for less than an hour.

Wrap Up

If you have donated blood in the past, we sincerely thank you. Your contributions may have saved lives!

With the Covid-19 crisis still ongoing in the United States, blood supplies are dangerously low. If you are a healthy individual and wish to give blood, click here for more resources. Speak with your doctor first to ask any questions or to see if you are eligible to give blood. 

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