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Holidays Are Hard on Blood Supplies

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

While December is typically the slowest month for blood donations, it is also an especially critical time of year to have adequate blood supplies on hand, according to a Duke University Medical Center emergency room official.

Kathy Finch, clinical operations director of the Emergency Department at Duke University Hospital, says there are several reasons for the December drop-off in blood donations.

"Everybody's busy, caught up in their own plans, traveling to see family and friends," said Finch. "Also, there are weather changes, and we're heading into the flu season. But the fact is, these are also times when we have exacerbation of diseases that need to have blood to support them. Also, with all the travel, it's not uncommon to see more accidents and associated trauma injuries."

Finch says giving blood is quick and simple process. Here are the general guidelines:

--You must be at least 17 years of age;
--You should weigh at least 110 pounds;
--You can't have donated blood within the previous 56 days; and
--You must be in good health.

Finch advises checking with a physician if there are questions about how safe it is to be a blood donor, especially for patients with such chronic conditions as diabetes or high blood pressure. Medications, including aspirin or any of several blood-thinning agents, may also affect the timing of blood donation.

Finch said the staff at the blood donation center will discuss health histories before collecting any blood. Potential donors can also expect a brief examination, which includes temperature, pulse, blood pressure and blood count measurements.

"When you give a pint of blood, theoretically you can save up to three lives," said Finch. "This is because different components in the blood can be used to treat different conditions. They can use blood components in different ways to help trauma patients, persons with bleeding disorders, surgery patients and others who need blood. The donation isn't just one pint per one patient per one life. It has a lot more impact than that.

"Your gift is greatly appreciated. It truly is a gift of life."

For more information about donating blood, contact the nearest American Red Cross blood donation center.

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