January is marked as National Blood Donor Month to raise awareness about the importance of blood donation. This year, it holds special significance as the country faces an emergency shortage, with donations reaching an all-time low in the past two decades.

According to the American Red Cross, the number of people donating blood through the nonprofit has fallen by about 40% in the last 20 years. In addition to the overall decline in donations, interruptions in the blood donation process between Christmas and New Year's Day have led to a shortfall of approximately 7,000 units.

People who are 17 years old (16 with parental consent where permitted by state law), weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and are in generally good health are eligible to donate blood in the U.S.

"Although roughly 66% of the U.S. adult population is eligible to donate blood, only 3% of the population donates blood," Dr. Jessica Jacobson, director of Blood Bank and Transfusion Medicine at Bellevue Hospital-New York University, told Medical Daily.

Many people refrain from donating blood due to fear and misunderstandings about the procedure. Here, Dr. Jacobson tries to dispel some common myths associated with the process to encourage more people to donate blood.

Myth#1 Donating blood makes you sick, donors can contract infection.

Fact: Healthy people who donate blood will not become less healthy afterward, and there is no risk of catching infection through donation.

"Blood donation is very safe. Each donor is drawn with a sterile single-use kit. A donor is not exposed to the blood of any other individual. 95+% of donors have no adverse effects. Most side effects, when they occur are mild and include bruising, feeling faint, and nerve irritation. Less than 0.1% of blood donors experience significant blood donation reactions which require medical treatment," Dr. Jacobson said.

Myth#2 If you are on any medication, you can't donate blood

Fact: While the majority of medications do not make one ineligible for blood donation, certain medications may disqualify some individuals from participating in the process.

People with cholesterol issues and high blood pressure are typically eligible to donate blood. Moreover, medications prescribed for these conditions generally do not disqualify a person from participating in blood donation.

"Donation of allogeneic blood must be safe for both the person donating the blood and the recipient. The FDA prohibits people taking certain medications from donating blood to protect the recipient. People taking medication to prevent or treat HIV infection are not eligible to donate allogeneic blood," Dr. Jacobson explained.

Allogeneic transfusion, also known as homologous blood transfusion, involves transfusion between a compatible donor and a patient.

Myth#3 Donating blood depletes one's blood supply

Fact: An average adult has about 10.5 pints of blood in their body, and only about one pint of blood is collected during a session of blood donation. The blood volume replenishes and returns to normal within 24 hours.

Whole blood can be donated once in eight weeks, while platelets can be donated twice in seven days or up to 24 times in 12 months.

"Someone can donate whole blood once every 56 days. Because red blood cells typically survive for about 120 days, your body is continually making new red blood cells. Each day your body makes about 10% of your platelets. White blood cell clotting factors and other proteins in plasma are also continually being made and replaced. An adult has about 10 pints of blood and can easily replenish the volume lost when donating blood. Part of evaluating each donor before blood donation is checking the person's hemoglobin level to assure that it is safe for them to donate," Dr. Jacobson said.