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While the holiday season is a time of giving, that's not usually the case when it comes to giving blood. Dr. Justin Juskewitch, associate medical director of the Blood Donor Center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says the center experiences a shortage of blood donations every year after the winter holidays.
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The winter months, particularly around holidays, tend to take a toll on the nation's blood supply.
"Donors are busy with various holiday activities. They're traveling all over the country or world visiting family. And so they're away from the areas of the country in which they donate," says Dr. Juskewitch.
Holiday travel is not only a reason why donations are down, it's also why the need is up.
"All of the snow, ice and rain this time of year also leads to more traumas. So in the winter and summer months, we see an uptick in blood usage due to trauma," he says.
Another factor keeping people out of the donation centers — illness.
"You're required to be healthy and well the day of your donation. And so during this time of year, as influenza and COVID and RSV are circulating in our communities — and people are becoming periodically sick — that means they can't come in and meet their donation appointments," says Dr. Juskewitch.
The biggest need is for Type O-negative red blood cells, which are the blood cells that can be given to anyone, regardless of blood type.
"We have such a strong need for them because if someone comes into the emergency department, we don't know who they are, or we haven't had time to do the testing, you have to determine their blood type. These are the units that we grab first out of the blood bank or out of the emergency refrigerator to give to patients who are in dire need," he says.
But regardless of blood type, Dr. Juskewitch encourages eligible donors to find a donation center and make a lifesaving donation.
"Coming in and donating, and then becoming a regular donor to help be part of that continuous supply so we don't have shortages in the future, is just as important as answering a plea during urgent times."
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