Elwood says there is nothing to fear, as donors only feel a pinch.
American Red Cross also is feeling a pinch. The Johnstown Region of Red Cross Blood Services has announced an emergency appeal to help resolve a critical blood shortage, in support of fellow blood regions impacted by this month's severe weather in the eastern United States.
The Johnstown Region serves hospitals, patients and donors in a 64-county area in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Ohio.
January is National Blood Donor Month, and this time of year the need is more urgent, Elwood says. Because of the snowstorm Dec. 29 and 30, the Johnstown Region lost about 400 units of blood that would have been collected, she says.
In addition, many people are ineligible to donate because they have colds or the flu.
People are busier during the holiday season and often don't have the time to give, says Tina Stover, donor resources field representative for Johnstown Region.
O-negative, the universal blood type that can be received by everyone, especially is needed.
Washington County Hospital's use of blood has increased 23 percent since last January, Elwood says. She says the rise has occurred because more people are moving into the area, and more are having treatments at John Marsh Cancer Center instead of traveling to Washington, D.C., or Baltimore.
If you wait to give blood until someone needs a transfusion, it's too late, Elwood says. It takes three to five days to process the blood.
One donation can save the lives of two or three people, as the blood is separated into red blood cells, platelets and plasma.
There is no risk of acquiring HIV from donating blood, Stover says.
"The blood supply is safer than it's ever been," she says.
How to give
To be eligible to give blood, donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 105 pounds and be in generally good health. Blood can be given every 56 days.
Donors never should give blood on an empty stomach, Elwood says.
Each time you donate is like a mini physical, she says. The entire process takes 45 minutes to an hour.
Blood can be given at any of the bloodmobile sites published in The Herald-Mail each Monday.
When you arrive, a greeter gets your name and telephone number and asks if you've ever donated before. The paperwork at registration also includes blood type and Social Security number, and your temperature is taken.
To make sure you are healthy enough to give, you will be asked about your medical history, and your iron level and blood pressure will be checked.
You then proceed to the donor bed, where your blood will be taken. The process usually takes three to five minutes for men and a little longer for women, Elwood says.
After your donation, you are escorted to the canteen area, where refreshments are served.
Donors are given a sticker that says "Be nice to me - I donated blood today."