The American Red Cross Says There's A Blood Shortage & Here's How You Can Help

Aidman/Fotolia

The American Red Cross has announced a severe mid-summer blood shortage, and the organization is urgently seeking blood and platelet donors of all blood types to help meet the demand for life-saving donations, according to their website. Blood donations have dropped off overall for the past two months, resulting in about 61,000 fewer donations and seriously depleted supplies. The current American Red Cross blood shortage is somewhat typical for this time of year, as fewer blood drives are hosted during the July 4 holiday season. The website notes that about 700 fewer blood drives are hosted nationally during Independence Day week, leaving those who rely on critical donations at risk when donations drives drop off. Nick Gehrig, communications director for Red Cross Blood Services, urges prospective donors to note that “Every day, blood and platelet donors can help save lives, and right now those heroes are needed to give as soon as possible.”

Stephanie Rendon, a spokesperson for the organization, tells Bustle that "During the months of May and June the Red Cross collected 56,000 fewer blood donations, this coupled with a tough July 4 holiday week for collections resulted in a significant drawn down of the Red Cross blood supply. In order to meet the needs of hospitals and patients across the country the Red Cross must collect 13,000 donations each day." Rendon also adds that Type O and platelet donations are still needed. In an effort to encourage enough donations to resolve the current shortage, USA Today also notes that the Red Cross is giving a $5 Amazon gift card to anyone who donates blood or platelets between July 30 and August 30.

USA Today further advises potential donors that those who give whole blood — both plasma and platelets — can regive every 56 days, while those who donate platelets alone are able to donate again after seven days, and up to 24 times per year, as platelet donations are only viable for five days post-donation.

According to the Red Cross website, new donors and those who haven’t given in a while are especially encouraged to get involved. The Red Cross also notes that new donors tend to drop off during the summer vacation months, as school-based blood drives are a major way that the organization reaches new donors throughout the year.

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Potential blood donors are advised that they are ineligible to donate blood if they have gotten a tattoo within one year in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming. The Red Cross also does not accept donations from men who have had sex with another man in the last 12 months. Those being treated with antibiotics for certain bacterial infections, as well as those on medications for bleeding and blood clot disorders, may not be eligible for donation. If you have an existing medical condition, check in with your doctor and the Red Cross before showing up to make sure you can give. And if you’ve recently traveled to a “malaria-risk” region of the world, you may be asked to wait one year before giving blood. You can check out additional blood donation guidelines here.

If you’re ready to roll up your sleeve and give, you can head to your local Red Cross location, or seek out a nearby blood drive. And if you’re not eligible to give blood, but still want to contribute, consider other ways you can help — like hosting a virtual or real time blood drive, giving a financial donation, or becoming a volunteer. No matter how you decide to help out the Red Cross this summer, remember that your participation can help save lives.

Correction: This article has been updated to include a quote from the Red Cross that more accurately describes the current need for donations.