Blood donations reach 20-year low causing national shortage, Red Cross says

The American Red Cross says it is experiencing an emergency blood shortage as the number of people donating hits a 20-year low. 

Blood supply is at critically low levels at Red Cross banks across the country. 

The Red Cross says over the last 20 years, the number of people donating blood has fallen about 40%. They say, when fewer people make donations, the lack of blood can lead to a delay in medical procedures. 

Donations were down nearly 7,000 units between Christmas and New Year's Day. The Red Cross has had to limit the distribution of type O blood to hospitals. 

"One of the most distressing situations for a doctor is to have a hospital full of patients and an empty blood bank without any blood on the shelves. Doctors often can’t operate without blood available to make surgeries, medical procedures and treatments possible," said Dr. Eric Gehrie, executive physician director for the Red Cross. "More challenges lie ahead as the potential for severe winter weather and seasonal illness may compound the dire blood supply situation."

January is National Blood Donor Month. To celebrate, the Red Cross is partnering with the NFL to encourage people to donate. Anyone who donates blood, platelets or plasma to the Red Cross this month will automatically be entered for a chance to win a trip for two to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. 

People interested in donating blood or platelets can make an appointment by visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).