SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Union Catholic High School (1600 Martine Ave., Scotch Plains) will host a blood drive Tuesday, August 20, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The current need is critical, according to the New York Blood Center, which has issued a "Blood Emergency." The summer is often a time of blood shortages since donations typically decline during the long school vacation period. Blood donations were lower than average in April and May, which has made the situation even more dire.

Every donor at the Union Catholic blood drive on August 20 will receive a reusable metal straw. To make an appointment, visit tinyurl.com/GiveBloodNJBS, Sponsor Code: 08723 Community. Walk-ins are also welcome.

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10 Commonly Asked Questions About Blood Donations:

1. Why has NYBC announced a blood emergency?  

NYBC has officially declared a blood emergency because supplies have dropped below required minimums, even for the seasonally low summer months. While we seek to always maintain a 7-9 day supply, our local blood supply has reached a critically low level. We are encouraging people of all blood types to come donate and there is an especially critical need for O negative and B negative blood types.

2. We hear that some blood types are especially critical … How does that work? 

O negative blood donors are considered “universal” and their blood type is needed most readily in trauma situations and emergency rooms because it can be safely transfused to ALL patients. Due to its high demand, O negative blood is in short supply and the New York Blood Center encourages individuals with this blood type to consider stepping forward and to donate today. 

3. Why is the summer a challenging time for blood donations?

Due to the long school vacation period and summer holidays—like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day—blood donation declines in the summer months, leading to a seasonal shortage. This year, we saw lower than average donations in April and May, which has made the situation even more critical.

4. What’s the shelf life of freshly donated blood?

Donated blood is perishable, just like milk. Red cells last for 42 days, platelets last for 5 days (a component of blood that’s especially important for cancer patients), and plasma can be frozen for up to a year. In order to maintain a safe blood supply, a seven-day inventory of all blood types must be continually replenished. Right now, New York Blood Center reserves are below that minimum. 

5. Who gets blood transfusions in our area?

About one in seven hospital admissions requires a blood transfusion, and with a limited shelf life, supplies must be continually replenished. Those in need include: cancer patients, accident, burn, or trauma victims, newborn babies and their mothers, transplant recipients, surgery patients, and others.

6. What makes someone who wants to give blood, ‘eligible’?

Donating blood is easy and only takes about an hour. Most healthy adults are eligible to donate and our blood supply relies exclusively on the generosity of volunteer blood donors.

You may donate if you are in good health, are at least 17 years old (16 with written consent from parent or legal guardian) and weigh at least 110 pounds, and be in good health. Donors over age 76 must have a letter from a physician.

All donated blood, even donations from repeat donors, is tested for blood type, hepatitis, HIV, syphilis, and other transmissible diseases. Blood may also be separated into various components (such as red cells, platelets, or plasma) so each donation may help several people. 

7. How long does blood donation take? 

The entire process takes about an hour. Donors should bring a photo ID and eat well and drink plenty of fluids being donating. Blood donors receive free mini-medical exams on site including information about their temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure and hemoglobin level. If participants are in good health and meet the criteria, they can then give blood. Afterwards, all donors receive free juice and cookies. 

8. You can donate lots of different places, right? How do we find out where they are?

You can donate blood or platelets at a New York Blood Center donor center or at a mobile blood drive. For a list of locations and a calendar of events, call 1-800-933-2566 or visit www.nybc.org.

9. Are appointments necessary? What about ‘walk-ins’? 

The New York Blood Center encourages appointments but will take walk-ins at most blood drives.

10. What if someone wants to host a blood drive? What does this process look like?

It is easy to host a blood drive and a New York Blood Center account manager will guide you every step of the way to help you plan your drive and recruit donors. This year, the organization is calling on companies, individuals, and community groups to host a blood drive this summer to help rebuild the blood stock supply, especially during the summer months.