National Blood Donor Month has taken place each January since 1970. Donating blood saves lives and improves health for many people. It is especially important now. Last week the American Red Cross warned that the US is facing a “dangerously low” blood supply.
Why is January National Blood Donor Awareness Month?
According to the American Red Cross (ARC), winter is one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood to meet the needs of patients. The usual reasons for the winter slump include busy holiday schedules, bad weather, and seasonal illnesses such as the flu. The pandemic has severely worsened the problem.
Just how low is the supply of blood?
Prior to the pandemic, most blood donation centers tried to maintain a five-day supply of blood. Currently, in many regions of the country, they are operating on less than a half-day supply.
In regions where the blood supply is dangerously low, doctors are making tough decisions on who gets blood and how much because there just isn’t enough.
Why is the blood supply so dangerously low now?
In addition to the usual winter slump, the pandemic has caused a number of other challenges when it comes to blood supply, due to both low donor turnout and high hospital use.
The American Red Cross reported about 120,000 units of blood were collected for the 2021 fiscal year. This is considerably less than pre-pandemic levels of about 215,000 units.
At the start of the pandemic, there were many canceled blood donation events. Young people, such as high school and college students, are usually active blood donors through school blood drives. The Red Cross gets about 25% of their blood donations through these events. Many local blood banks get a larger percentage of their blood donations from these events. Blood donation events have been significantly limited by the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ARC has also had chronic staff shortages, leading to fewer donations.
Hospitals are also starting to see more severe cases of cancer, diagnosed at more advanced stages due to patients putting off screening during the pandemic. These patients require more transfusions.
What can you do to help?
Roll up your sleeve and donate blood now! A single blood donation can help save more than one life!
Blood cannot be stockpiled or manufactured; it can only be made available through the kindness of volunteer donors.
What are the eligibility criteria for donating blood?
For whole blood donation, you must meet the following criteria:
Donation frequency: Every 56 days, up to 6 times a year
You must be in good health and feeling well
You must be at least 16 years old in most states (some states it’s 17 years old)
You must weigh at least 110 pounds
How can you donate blood?
For more information about the ARC and the need for blood donations, use this link:
If you have any questions about blood donation, please log into your account and send
us your question. We are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor