January is National Blood Donor Month

by Kym Byrnes

In a typical year, the need for blood donations increases over the winter months, but in the time of COVID, the need is even greater. The American Red Cross recently reported that the blood supply in the U.S. is “critically low” and the “majority of the country’s blood centers are reporting significant declines in their blood collections.” In addition to coronavirus disruptions, the country has seen blood donations fluctuate due to wildfires in Western states, hurricanes in the South, and other disruptions. Blood has a short shelf life, and the supply must constantly be replenished.

January is National Blood Donor Month, and it is the perfect opportunity to start the year by challenging yourself to donate. Donating blood is safe, and the need for healthy people to donate is great. Here’s what you need to know to get started:

  1. Download the Red Cross Blood Donor app

    It’s a super resource that makes donating easy and convenient (aside from the needle, but we’ll get to that). With the app, users can find, schedule and register for blood drives, as well as find their blood type, the last time they donated and get an alert when their donated blood is being used by someone in need.

  2. you will Be Tested for Coronavirus Antibodies

    When you donate blood, the Red Cross will test for coronavirus antibodies in your blood to determine if your plasma can be used to aid coronavirus patients. COVID-19 antibody results will be available to donors within one to two weeks in the app. This test is not a diagnostic test to diagnose illness, but rather to see if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to the virus.

  3. Blood Types Needed & options

    All blood types are needed, and donors have a few different donation options including: whole blood donation, which allows hospitals to use the blood in multiple ways to help multiple patients; power red donations, which take a concentrated dose of red blood cells, the part of the blood used for those needing transfusions; platelet donations, which help cancer patients and others facing life-threatening illnesses and injuries; and plasma donations (offered at select centers), in which the part of your blood used to treat patients in emergency situations is collected.

  4. At the Blood Drive

    When donors arrive at a blood drive, they register (this can be done in advance with the app) and speak with a Red Cross representative, who will get a health history and gather physical information. Donors will then be comfortably seated while a pint of blood is drawn, often taking about 10 minutes. Then donors are offered a snack and a few minutes to “recover” — and that’s it! Results (blood type, COVID-19 antibody, total amount of blood given) will be available on the app within a couple of weeks. The app will even remind you when you’re eligible to give again.

  5. Ready to give?

    Donors must be in general good health and feeling well; be at least 17 years old; weigh at least 110 pounds and not have donated blood in the previous 56 days.

And this is the guarantee: Your blood donation will help someone in need. It may be a cancer patient, or a child fighting a disease. It could be a mother experiencing trauma during childbirth, or a grandfather traumatically injured in a car accident.

Scared of strangers with needles? There are ways to ease the stress. Ask a friend to donate with you, or document your experience on social media and challenge family members to match or beat your donations over the course of the year.

Visit www.redcrossblood.org to learn more about saving lives by donating blood.