When you've been hit with a lot of cold, snow, and ice, then you add in the start of flu season, the equation boils down to this: area blood supplies are way down, and the Rock River Valley Blood Center (RRVBC) needs your help.

Our friend Jennifer Bowman, PR & marketing manager for the RRVBC, tells me that inclement weather and flu season are affecting the community blood supply. Snow, cold temperatures and donors feeling under the weather have all negatively impacted traffic at all donor centers and blood drives.

"Collections are down 30%. We are juggling the limited blood products we have to ensure our hospitals have products on their shelves, but the supply continues to dwindle. Red blood cells expire in 42 days and platelets last only 5 so it is a constant process to manage what we do have and make sure it’s where it needs to be most. Back to back days of extreme cold mean we could come very close to running out of any blood type. On top of all of this, the flu season is upon us and donors are canceling appointments daily.”

Donating blood is safe and simple. You are most likely able to donate if you are at least 17 years old (16 year olds may donate with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in general good health. Persons taking medications are not necessarily disqualified.

There are four community donor centers throughout the area (Belvidere, Freeport, Rockford) as well as many mobile blood drives. Log on to www.rrvbc.org for hours, directions and mobile blood drive schedules.