The American Red Cross celebrates January as National Blood Donor Month in recognition of the lifesaving contributions of blood and platelet donors. January is the leanest month for blood donation in the U.S. That is why the American Red Cross is urging people to give blood as soon as possible.

It is difficult to collect enough blood to meet patient needs this time of the year. Changing weather conditions, widespread cold and flu symptoms, and winter blues keep even dedicated donors from giving blood or platelets. To compound the problem, extra blood is often needed at this time of year due to traumatic road injuries resulting from winter storms.

A local Red Cross typically needs about 650 blood donors each day to supply the needs of patients in some 40 area hospitals. Blood donation drives are typically reduced by about 10 percent nationwide this time of year.

How Often Can You Donate?

People can safely donate blood every 56 days. They can donate platelets every seven days. To qualify as a blood donor, an individual must be 17 years of age (though most states allow individuals 16 years of age to donate blood as long as they are accompanied by a parent). Blood and platelet donors must weight at least 110 pounds and must be generally in good health.

Benefits of Donating Blood

Donating blood or platelets benefits patients needing blood transfusions as well as patients with anemia (including anemia associated with cancer) and hereditary blood disorders. Donating blood can also benefit donors. It may help your blood flow better and your iron stay more balanced. Plus, you’ll have that extra spring in your step from knowing that you helped others.

Blood cannot be manufactured. People are the only source of blood so it is important that you donate in order to help those who need it. Extend the spirit of holiday giving into the New Year by giving blood. Call 1-800-RED-CROSS to schedule your donation. You can even get the Red Cross app to help you schedule regular donations.