The American Red Cross has issued a critical need for all blood type donations. Winter is typically a difficult time to collect enough blood and platelets to meet patients' needs, and this year is no exception.

American Red Cross Blood Services spokeswoman Alana Mauger says while there is a desperate need for all blood types, there is a dangerously low supply of O-positive and O-negative blood. Area hospitals have only a three day supply of these blood types. She said they should all have at least a five-day supply. Once the supply dips below five days, it's considered a shortage.

O-negative is the universal blood type and can be transfused to anyone. O-positive is the most common blood type and can be transfused to anyone with a positive R-H blood type.

Winter is always challenging to get blood donations because people are busy for the holiday or they're traveling. Employers are not holding blood drives as they do at other times of the year. So the American Red Cross is already operating at a deficit going into January.

Then when January comes, there's inclement weather and cold and flu season, which Mauger said is bad this year.

She said giving blood is easy and the best part is that lives will be saved. The procedure takes about an hour from start to finish but a person is only on the donation table for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Most of that 60 minutes is spent reading some material, going through a brief health history and undergoing a mini physical. Mauger said donors are rewarded with goodies, juice and water.

But Mauger also offered some tips prior to donating blood.

First, get a good night's sleep.

Eat a good, healthy meal. There is a misconception that people think they should fast before donating blood. She said that is absolutely not true.

Also, drink plenty of extra before and after a donation.

Also, a donor should be in fairly good health. If someone feels a cold coming on, it's best to put off a blood donation until he or she is 100%.

Mauger said there is no substitute for voluntarily donated blood. It cannot be manufactured, so patients in the New Jersey region really rely on the generosity of blood donors every day.

To give blood, New Jersey residents can log onto www.redcrossblood.org. Type in a ZIP code and find a blood drive in the state. A perspective donor can also call 1-800 RED CROSS. Red Cross also has a blood donor app and a donation tool on Amazon Alexa devices.

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