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National Blood Donor Month

National Blood Donor Month
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Are you a blood donor?  Congratulations, this month is in honor of you!

Ever since it was first observed in 1970, January has become National Blood Donor Month.  January was chosen because the winter is historically the most difficult time to get blood donation, mainly due to bad weather, cancelled drives, and seasonal illnesses like the flu which prevent people from donating.  This holiday is an observance of the life-saving contribution of blood and platelets by generous donors!  Also, a way to remind and encourage people to keep donating blood.  According the Red Cross, each year 4.5 million lives are saved by blood transfusions.  And every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion.

Blood Types

People of all blood types are encouraged to donate.

There are four major blood groups: A, B, O, and AB.  A protein (or lack thereof) in the blood known as the “Rh factor” determines whether you are “positive” or “negative.”  Thus, the eight blood types are: A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, and AB-.

Type O blood is the most common blood type: 37% of people have O+, and 6% have O-.  (AB- is the rarest, with only 0.6% of people having this type.)  Type O blood is always in high demand since it’s the most common, but also because it is compatible with and usable for other blood types.  Although O+ can only be used for other “positives,” O- can be used for anyone, positive or negative.  Thus, individuals with O- blood are known as “Universal Donors.”  That means in the absence of an exact match, O- blood can be use in transfusions for anyone, which is particularly helpful in emergencies.

But you don’t actually need to know your blood type to donate.  The Red Cross takes every kind.  If you don’t know your type, they will test it and determine your blood type and let you know.

If you would like to learn more about blood types, learn more by visiting:

Donating Blood

In order to be eligible to donate blood, you must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, and be in generally good health.

When you first arrive at the blood drive, you check in with the greeter using your ID.  You will be required to read some literature, to ensure that you are eligible and safe to donate.

Next, you will be asked questions about your health history and be given a brief general health check: a Red Cross volunteer will check your heart rate, blood pressure, and iron levels in your blood.  Not only do they want good blood, they want to make sure that you are healthy enough to donate as well.

A successful donation takes about an hour from start to finish.  During donation, you simply recline on a chair and the technician takes care of the rest.  The actual donation only takes about 10 minutes.

When you are done, you will want to spend some time in the canteen.  Volunteers give you beverages (juice or water) and snacks to build your strength back up.  Then, for the rest of the day, you have permission to rest and take it easy.  For your sacrifice, you deserve it!

You can give again after 56 days.

If you have never donated blood before, please consider donating now.  You may literally be giving life to someone who needs it.

Find a Blood Drive

If this is your first time donating, prepare by reading this page for First Time Donors.

For more information or to donate blood, stop in at a blood drive or make an appointment online or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.  Visit their website to find a blood drive by date or location.

You will notice blood drives occur periodically at one of our library branches, so check our calendar of events for one.


Kelly is a librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. As the Adult Programming Specialist, her focus is bringing adults the library programs they love.  (Kids can’t have ALL the fun!).  She reads strictly nonfiction and picture books.  She believes that anything you could ever need or want is located somewhere in the library.  Including friends.