After holidays, need for blood donations high

By Emily Van Zandt Published December 26, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Jermaine Marshall of Little Rock donates blood at a fraternity-sponsored blood drive over the summer. This winter, the Red Cross is partnering with college campuses across Arkansas to help increase the blood supply during January, National Blood Donor Month.

While the holidays are prime time for charitable giving, American Red Cross officials hope that spirit continues well into January.

As part of National Blood Donor Month, the Red Cross encourages those who are able to donate blood to do so. January typically marks a dip in the blood supply as a result of bad weather and seasonal illnesses such as the flu. The Red Cross also tends to see a decline in donations during the holidays, when people may be traveling.

“Hospital patients don’t get a holiday from needing blood and platelets,” said Marci Manley, spokeswoman for the Red Cross Greater Ozarks-Arkansas Blood Services Region. “The closer we get to the major holiday week, the more we see donations decline. People are busy with gift shopping, holiday parties, and there is an overall sense of distraction. We need donors to come in and give before they get too busy with other things.”

Even in colder months, more than 41,000 blood donations are needed per day in the U.S., according to the Red Cross.

To encourage more donations around New Year’s, the Red Cross Greater Ozarks-Arkansas Blood Services Region is offering a free long-sleeve T-shirt, while supplies last, to those who donate before Jan. 3.

While several blood drives are scheduled in the Tri-Lakes area in January, donors can make an appointment anytime by calling (800) 733-2767 or visiting redcrossblood.org.

Greater Ozarks-Arkansas Region officials also hope to increase winter blood supplies through its 2014 We Challenge U Program. The effort partners the Red Cross with colleges and universities between Wednesday and Feb. 28, offering participants a place to donate on campus and receive a free T-shirt. Participating colleges include the College of the Ouachitas in Malvern, which will host a blood drive from noon to 5 p.m. Jan. 27.

First-time donor this holiday season? The Red Cross recommends drinking plenty of fluids before donating blood and eating more iron-rich foods, such as spinach, sweet potatoes and beans. After that, donors are encouraged to try and relax. It’s all for a good cause.

Those interested in donating will need a blood donor card or a driver’s license or two other forms of identification for check-in. Donors must be at least 17 years old, weight at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health, according to Red Cross guidelines.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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