MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The American Red Cross says they urgently need blood donors in order to prevent an emergency blood shortage.

Donations drop significantly in the summer, and all blood types are needed.

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So how much blood does the Red Cross actually need? And is there anyone who can’t donate blood?

Nationwide, about 3.5 million people give blood each year, according to Sue Thesenga of the Red Cross.

“We’re all individuals, we’re all different. And blood type is inherited from your parents just like other things are inherited,” Thesenga said.

Her job is to get people to take a seat, roll up a sleeve and donate in order to help save lives.

“How amazing when you can go home at night and say ‘Hey, I saved three people’s lives by donating,'” she said.

Thesenga says blood has a shelf life of 42 days. So if you’re 16-years-old, weigh 110 pounds, are in good health and have your parents’ permission — you can start giving blood.

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Even if you get a tattoo, at least in Minnesota, you’re good to go.

“If you get a tattoo in the state of Minnesota from a licensed facility, you are immediately eligible to donate blood,” Thesenga said.

The same holds true for body piercings, as long as the business is licensed. But there are those who can’t donate.

“The FDA has set a restriction, a lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with men,” Thesenga said.

The FDA argues that gay men are at increased risk for AIDS and Hepatitis B. It’s a ruling that has become controversial.

People who take blood thinners and those who have certain diseases can be ineligible to donate. Some veterans are also ineligible, depending on where they’ve been deployed and what exposure they’ve had to certain diseases and chemicals.

Of the 38 percent of the nation that’s eligible to give blood, Thesenga says only about eight percent actually donate.

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Click here to see if you qualify, and to find locations to donate.

John Lauritsen