THOMAS FREDBERG/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY—Getty Images/Science Photo Library RM
By Andee Erickson
Updated: January 10, 2018 12:40 PM ET
TIME Health
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The American Red Cross is making an urgent call for blood and platelet donations of all blood types to help combat a blood shortage, after severe winter weather caused January blood bank donations to drop by the thousands.

More than 5,500 blood and platelet donations have gone uncollected so far this year, and more than 150 blood drives were forced to cancel due to the early January winter storm along the eastern seaboard, the Red Cross said.

“Even temporary disruptions to blood and platelet donations can diminish the availability for hospital patients,” Clifford Numark, senior vice president of Red Cross Blood Services, said in a statement. “It’s the blood on the shelves that helps save lives in an emergency.”

But the Red Cross had already been struggling keeping those shelves stocked.

Along with winter weather, flu season and the holidays contributed to a shortage of 28,000 blood donations in November and December, according to the organization.

Right now, the Red Cross says, there is a critical need for Type O negative and B negative blood donations. O-negative blood in particular is needed since it’s the universal blood type that any patient can use.

Type O negative blood “is what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations,” the Red Cross said.

The Red Cross also stressed a high demand for blood platelet donations often needed by cancer patients. Platelets, which help blood clot, must be used within five days of donation, so are always in high demand, according to the Red Cross.

Blood donation appointments can be scheduled on the American Red Cross website. To be eligible to donate blood or platelets, the donor must be at least 17 years old, in good health and meet general health and weight requirements. A proper ID is also required.

 

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