The nation is facing a severe mid-summer blood shortage, and the American Red Cross is searching for donors of all blood types.
It's even offering an Amazon gift card to anyone who donates blood or platelets from July 30 to Aug. 30 to encourage the life-saving donations.
"All I can say is, the summer is a very tough time," said Ronnika McFall, spokeswoman for the Red Cross in the Southern Region. "We don't do as many blood drives.
"The Red Cross expects a shortfall of more than 56,000 donations worldwide, and we have to collect more than 13,000 donations a day worldwide to prevent a shortage," she said.
A record number of Americans are traveling this vacation season, according to the American Automobile Association. McFall said that contributes to fewer donors, too.
“Patients don’t get a summer break from the need for lifesaving treatments, so it is critical that hospitals have access to blood products each and every day,” said Alana Mauger, communications manager of the Penn Jersey Blood Services Region.
“We sincerely appreciate those who have responded to the call to help save lives, but the emergency need remains.” she said in a news release.
Those who give whole blood are able to donate every 56 days. Double that Power Red donors, those who give the equivalent of two units of red blood cells in one donation with a special machine that returns your plasma and platelets.
Donors of platelets, whose shelf life is only five days, are allowed to give every seven days, up to 24 times a year.
The Red Cross strives to have a five-day supply of blood on hand to be prepared for emergencies. Right now, donations are being distributed to hospitals faster than they are coming in, leaving less than a five-day supply available.
While all blood types are needed, Type O is especially important, the Red Cross said.
"Type O positive is the most transfused blood type and can be given to patients with any Rh-positive blood type. Type O negative is the universal blood type and can be given to any patient. It’s what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations," the organization said in a release.
Have a tattoo? You still can give blood if you received it in a state that regulates tattoo parlors. If you got it in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming, because of concerns about hepatitis, you can donate after waiting 12 months .
You may have to wait 12 months to donate depending on the type of equipment used for your body piercing — belly button, ear, genital, nose, tongue or other areas. Piercings with single use guns or needles are considered safer and may have less lead time.
All who donate blood or platelets between July 30 and Aug. 30 will receive a $5 Amazon.com gift card via email. Visit RedCrossBlood.org/Together for more details.
Find out more information about donating or make an appointment to give blood by using the American Red Cross blood donor app, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling (800) 733-2767.
Blood donation basics
Each year an estimated 6.8 million people in the United States give blood, donating 13.6 million units. To give blood, volunteers must:
• Be healthy with a normal pulse, blood pressure and temperature.
• Meet minimum age requirements in your state, typically 16 years old.
• Weigh at least 110 pounds.
• Be free of infections that can be transmitted through blood transfusion or risk factors for the infections.
• Not have donated blood in the past 56 days.