Why Give Blood in January?

Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and Frederick Hecht, M.D.

"Almost always during the holidays, we suffer a serious shortage," said Dr. Jerry Squires, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross. That is why January is National Volunteer Blood Donor Month.

Who can give blood?

To be eligible to donate blood, a person must be in good health, 17 years of age (although some states permit younger people, with parental consent, to donate). Minimum weight requirements may vary, but generally, donors should weigh at least 110 pounds. Most blood banks have no upper age limit. All donors must pass the physical and health history examinations given prior to donation.

Who cannot give blood?

Person who are not permitted to donate blood are as follows:

  • Anyone who has ever used intravenous drugs (illegal IV drugs)
  • Men who have had sexual contact with other men since 1977 Hemophiliacs
  • Anyone with a positive antibody test for HIV (the AIDS virus)
  • Men and women who have engaged in sex for money or drugs since 1977
  • Anyone who has had hepatitis since their eleventh birthday
  • Anyone who has or has had cancer
  • Anyone who has had babesiosis or Chagas disease
  • Anyone who has taken the drug Tegison for psoriasis
  • Anyone who has risk factors for Crueutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) or who has an immediate family member with CJD
  • Anyone who has risk factors for vCJD

How often can blood be given?

Whole blood can be donated once every eight weeks (56 days). Two units of red blood cells can be donated at one time, using a process known as red cell apheresis. This type of donation can be made every 16 weeks.

Sources: The American Association of Blood Banks. The American Red Cross.


Last Editorial Review: 1/13/2004



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