The Red Cross has a constant call for blood donations because the nation needs a steady supply of blood to support the health of its people. But since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, blood donors are reluctant to donate for safety or fear reasons. Voluntary quarantines, mask mandates, and social distancing makes the blood donation process overwhelming and seemingly complicated.
While it might be true that blood donation is more difficult than it was before March 2020, the need is the same. The only difference is that now there is a larger shortage, and The Red Cross has to work harder than ever to supply blood to those who still need it.
The Need for Blood
Although more organizations than The Red Cross collect blood for those in need, The Red Cross supplies about 40 percent of the blood for the United States. They accomplish that through volunteers coming to drives, visiting Red Cross centers, and traveling to bloodmobiles.
The Red Cross needs about 13,000 volunteer donors every single day to keep 5 days’ worth of blood on hand for the people who require it. But this supply is difficult to maintain when schools and businesses can’t open for blood drives, and volunteers remain in their homes.
The truth is, the FDA changed the guide for donating to further ensure donor safety, in hopes of maintaining the needed levels of donated blood.
Who Can Donate
To donate blood, you have to be 16 years old, over 110 pounds, and free from illness. Although those seem like easy criteria to meet for most people, many things prevent you from volunteering your blood, so merely 38 percent of people are eligible to donate.
The list that disqualifies you from donating includes:
- Unmedicated anemia, high blood pressure, or diabetes
- Using needles for unprescribed drugs or steroids
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Certain medications
- Males who’ve had sex with another male within the past three months
- Females who’ve had sex with a male as described above in the past three months
- Tattoos or piercings within the past three months
If you have any questions about whether you qualify to give blood or not, contact The Red Cross.
What Happens to Your Donation?
Once you donate, The Red Cross sends it to a laboratory with the equipment they need to process your blood like centrifuges, a cell sorter device, computers, and test tubes. When the gift of life is processed, the lab tests it for contaminants and infectious diseases, including COVID-19 antibodies.
If the tests come back clear, they store it in a blood bank or similar facility, but if yours isn’t clear, they discard it and notify you of the test results.
Donate Your Blood Safely
Considering that the donation is a medical procedure, centers already have various safety measures in place.
Here are some ways The Red Cross collects your blood safely:
- Only allowing a few donors in at a time
- Disinfecting donor areas before and after donations
- Practicing social distancing for donor and refreshment areas
- Increasing scrutiny of blood donor applications
- Practicing protective medical protocol
Even with all safety precautions in place, a large part of donor safety relies on donor compliance and application honesty. So, if you decide to donate, be sure to disclose all your medical information to the donation center.
Volunteer to Donate and Save a Life
The need for blood donations remains at an all-time high, and it’s interesting to note that every single donation has the potential to save three lives. If you can or would like to donate, contact The Red Cross to lend a hand.