The American Red Cross has issued an emergency appeal, asking eligible blood and platelet donors to give as soon as possible.

According to Red Cross officials, blood products are currently being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in. They said blood donations have fallen short of hospital needs for the past few months, resulting in about 39,000 fewer donations than what’s needed. The donation shortage has caused a significant draw-down of Red Cross' overall blood supply.

“We urge people to give now to help hospital patients who depend on blood and platelets being available when they need it,” said Chris Hrouda, executive vice president of Red Cross Biomedical Services. “Summer is one of the most challenging seasons to collect enough blood, but patients need blood no matter what time of year it is.”

Red Cross officials said the organization had a tough time collecting enough blood donations over the Fourth of July weekend. A recent survey of Red Cross blood donors showed more than 75 percent indicated vacation plans this summer, many of them occurring the week before and after July 4.

According to the Red Cross, nearly 650 fewer blood drives are typically held the week of July 4 than during an average week, which equals the equivalent of the organization not collecting any donations for an entire day. Officials pointed out that patients do not get a summer holiday from needing blood.

Schedule An Appointment To Give Now

Eligible blood donors are urged to schedule a donation today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visiting or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Appointments can be scheduled online at one of the following locations (click site):

The Red Cross has added more than 350 hours to donation centers and community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks. Donors are encouraged to make an appointment to reduce possible wait-times at blood donation sites.