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Donating blood is one of the most important things you can do for public health. The need for blood is constant: someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds. Not everyone is eligible, but those of us who are should always consider donating, especially in the winter season when donation levels drop off due to inclement weather and illnesses.
It's not uncommon to see calls for blood donations from organizations like the Red Cross, but it's staggering to see that need expressed in straightforward numbers:
Compounding this need is the length of time when blood components are viable:
There are a number of diseases and situations that require considerable amounts of donated blood. Among them:
Accidents, disasters, and violent incidents: A single car accident victim can require up to 100 pints (around 100 units) of blood during lifesaving procedures, while the average adult holds about 8 to 12 pints. During larger scale events like natural disasters or mass shootings, the need increases that much more.
Sickle cell disease: This form of anemia that alters the shape of red blood cells and affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. Sickle cell disease patients can require blood transfusions their entire lives.
Cancer: Over 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer yearly in the U.S., and these patients will need blood during treatments like chemotherapy.
Certain blood types are more in demand than others, with type O blood being the most requested by hospitals:
Around 37 percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood, but less than 10 percent donate annually. To find out if you're eligible to donate, take a look at the Red Cross guide to eligibility requirements.
There are many myths on who's eligible to donate blood and who's not. You should always confirm your eligibility with an organization like the Red Cross when about to donate, but here's a quick guide to who can and can't give blood: