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Red Cross needs blood donors — here's how to help

Summer is one of the most challenging times for the organization.
Phlebotomist preparing patient to donate blood in hospital lab
Blood donations decrease in the summer, even as the need for donations stays the same. Getty Images stock
/ Source: TODAY

After this weekend's shootings in Texas and Ohio, the Red Cross is urging eligible individuals to donate blood. However, it's not blood banks in El Paso or Dayton that need support.

"Right now, the Red Cross has what it needs to support these events," said the organization in a press release shared over the weekend. "Unfortunately, fewer blood donors and blood drives during the summer months make it one of the most challenging times of the year for blood and platelet donations."

It's not the first time the organization has acknowledged the summer shortage — a campaign over the summer focused on a shortage of certain types of blood, and a press release from late July offered an Amazon gift card to anyone who donated between July 29 and August 29.

"Currently, the Red Cross has less than a three-day supply of most blood types available and less than a two-day supply of type O blood," said the organization, which provides 40% of the blood used across the country, in the press release, which was shared on July 29. "When an emergency arises, it is the blood already on the shelves that saves lives."

Even without mass tragedies like the shootings this weekend, there's still a constant need for blood and blood products for situations like surgical patients, those receiving treatment for diseases like cancer and sickle cell disease and those who are in accidents.

According to the Red Cross, blood is needed every two seconds.

How to donate

Blood drives can be found at medical centers and community locations across the country. To find ones near you, go to the Red Cross's website and input your zip code to find the most convenient location. Select "See Times" to begin making an appointment.

Donations are easier than you might think, and only take a short amount of time. While the entire process may take about an hour from start to finish, the actual donation itself only lasts about 10 minutes.

To donate blood, individuals must be at least 17 (or 16 with parental consent) in most states, and meet certain height and weight requirements. Individuals must show ID before donating, and will undergo a health history questionnaire and mini-physical before getting started. Nurses will check your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin level to make sure that you are in the right condition to donate.

Following the donation, you'll be asked to stay for about 15 minutes to make sure that there are no side effects, like dizziness or nausea. You'll be provided with a snack and something to drink before going on your way.