Blood Facts


This chart shows the various blood types and their frequency in the U.S. population. Blood Type Graph 2017


What is blood?

Blood is a living tissue composed of blood cells suspended in plasma. The cellular elements, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets – make up about 45% of the volume of whole blood. Plasma, which is 92% water, makes up the remaining 55%.

What does blood do?

The average adult has 8 – 12 pints of blood traveling all over his or her body through the heart, lungs, arteries, veins and capillaries. Blood is an essential part of our bodies that transports oxygen, nutrients, and metabolic waste. In addition to all that, blood performs these functions:

  • Replenishes oxygen and removes carbon dioxide
  • Distributes essential nutrients to cells
  • Carries away metabolic waste materials for disposal
  • Recognizes antigens (foreign substances) and produces antibodies (immune defense mechanisms)
  • Clots cuts, wounds and scratches to prevent bleeding

How is blood used?

Blood and its components have many uses. Hospitals stock some of the more common blood components used in emergencies, but usually blood products are not ordered until they are needed. They are kept at the Rock River Valley Blood Center until a hospital orders them. Red cells can be used for 42 days after they are donated. They are used in the treatment of accident victims, to replace blood lost during surgery, to treat burn victims and to increase the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity. They are also used in the treatment of anemia that can’t be medically corrected. Platelets are stored separate from other components and must be used in the five days following the donation. They are commonly used to treat bone marrow failure, leukemia and cancer patients, low platelet count or other conditions causing abnormally functioning platelets. Plasma has a much longer shelf life and is often frozen for later use. Once thawed, plasma is used during cardiac surgery, for burn victims, and to treat bleeding disorders. For example, bleeding disorders can occur in liver failure, when too much of a blood thinner has been given or when severe bleeding and massive transfusions result in low levels of clotting factors. Plasma is often used to make therapies for bleeding disorders: Factor VII concentrate is used in the treatment and prevention of bleeding episodes. Factor VIII concentrate and cryoprecipitate are used by patients with hemophilia A (classic hemophilia), which is caused by a deficiency of factor VIII. Cryoprecipitate is prepared from plasma and contains fibrinogen, von Willebrand factor, factor VIII, factor XIII and fibronectin. Factor IX concentrate is used by patients with hemophilia B (“Christmas disease”), which is caused by a deficiency of clotting factor IX.


A transfusion is a procedure that replaces the blood lost by a patient with the blood of a generous donor like you! How is my blood used? After you give your blood, while you’re snacking on cookies and showing off your arm wrap, your blood begins its journey to save lives! Through one donation, you can help save as many as up to 3 lives. No wonder RRVBC donors and volunteers feel so amazing. And, who ever thought saving lives could be this easy?

50 blood facts

01. Anyone in good health, at least 17 years old ( or 16 years old with parental consent – click here for consent form), and at least 110 pounds may donate whole blood every 56 days. 02. 4.5 million American lives are saved each year by blood transfusions. 03. 40,000 pints of donated blood are used each day in the United States. 04. Someone needs blood every two seconds. Fact5 06. Up to 3 lives are saved by one pint of donated blood. 07. Between 8-12 pints of blood are in the body of an average adult. 08. One unit of blood is ~525 mL, which is roughly the equivalent of one pint. 09. Blood makes up about 7% of your body’s weight. 10. A newborn baby has about one cup of blood in his body. 11. The average transfusion patient receives 3 units of red blood cells. 12. Blood fights infection and helps heal wounds. 13. A, B, AB and O are the four main types of blood types. AB is the universal recipient, O negative is the universal donor. 14. Blood centers often run short of types O and B blood. 15. Shortages of all blood types usually happen during the summer and winter holidays. 16. If all blood donors gave two to four times a year, it would help prevent blood shortages. 17. You could donate 48 gallons of blood if you began at 17 years old and donate every 56 days until you reach 76 years old. 18. Three gallons of blood is used every minute in the United States. fact19 20. The actual blood donation usually takes less than ten minutes. The entire process from the time you sign in to the time you leave takes about an hour. 21. Giving blood will not decrease your strength. 22. You cannot get AIDS or any other infectious disease by donating blood. 23. 16 tests (13 for infectious diseases) are performed on each unit of donated blood. 24. Any company, community organization, place of worship or individual may contact their local community blood center to host a blood drive. 25. People donate blood out of a sense of duty and community spirit, not to make money. Volunteer donors cannot be paid for their donation. 26. Much of today’s medical care depends on a steady supply of blood from healthy volunteer donors. fact27 28. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s organs and tissue. 29. There are one billion red blood cells in two to three drops of blood. 30. Red blood cells live about 120 days in the circulatory system. 31. Platelets support blood clotting and give those with leukemia and other cancers a chance to live. 32. Apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis) is a special kind of blood donation that allows a donor to give specific blood components, such as platelets. 33. The shelf life of donated red blood cells is 42 days. 34. The shelf life of donated platelets is five days. 35. The shelf life of frozen plasma is one year. 36. Plasma is a pale yellow mixture of water, proteins and salts. 37. Plasma, which is 92% water, constitutes 55% of blood volume. 38. Healthy bone marrow makes a constant supply of red cells, plasma and platelets. 39. Car accident and blood loss victims may need transfusions of 50 pints or more of red blood cells. Fact40 41. Severe burn victims may need 20 units of platelets during their treatment. 42. Children being treated for cancer, premature infants and children having heart surgery need blood and platelets from donors of all types. 43. Anemic patients need blood transfusions to increase their iron levels. 44. Cancer, transplant and trauma patients, and patients undergoing open-heart surgery often require platelet transfusions to survive. 45. Sickle cell disease is an inherited disease that affects more than 80,000 people in the United States, 98% of whom are of African descent. Some patients with complications from severe sickle cell disease receive blood transfusions every month – up to four pints at a time. 46. 500,000 Americans donated blood in the days following the September 11th attacks. 47. Females receive 53% of blood transfusions; males receive 47%. 48. 94% of blood donors are registered voters. 49. Bone marrow transplant patients can use up to 120 platelets and red blood cells from about 20 people. 50. 17% of non-donors cite “never thought about it” as the main reason for not giving, while 15% say they’re too busy. The #1 reason donors say they give is because they “want to help others.”

Important Information about Iron Deficiency in Blood Donors