If you’re feeling the giving spirit this holiday season, chances are you’re not alone. Through a movement called GivingTuesday, on Dec. 1st each year, countless people in more than 70 countries choose to create good in their communities. Launched in 2012, this effort has a simple goal: to encourage people and organizations to build a more just and generous world.

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Want to Give Back to Your Community? Get Involved By Giving Blood

December 3, 2020

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If you’re feeling the giving spirit this holiday season, chances are you’re not alone. Through a movement called GivingTuesday, on Dec. 1st each year, countless people in more than 70 countries choose to create good in their communities. Launched in 2012, this effort has a simple goal: to encourage people and organizations to build a more just and generous world.

And while GivingTuesday has generated millions of dollars in donations, monetary gifts aren’t the only way to give back and create good: Being generous with your time, your resources and your spirit are also great ways to help make your community — and indeed the world — a better place.

Woman smiling while giving blood

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During these unprecedented times, there’s something perhaps even more important that people can give: blood. While there has always been a need for blood donation, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the need greater. Blood banks across the United States are facing critical shortages, creating potentially dire consequences for the thousands of people per day who need blood transfusions.

 

Here’s a look at why there’s a blood shortage, how the pandemic is making the shortage worse, and why you might want to encourage your patients, your friends and your family to make a blood donation now.

Why There’s a Blood Shortage

According to an Oct. 16, 2020, joint statement from the AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks), America’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross,1 the U.S. blood supply is critically low, with most blood centers nationwide experiencing significant declines in blood donations. These critical shortages can be traced back to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when quarantines, work closures, school shutdowns and other factors caused blood drives at businesses, schools and community organizations to be canceled.

 

Add in major natural disasters over the past several months — hurricanes striking the Gulf Coast, wildfires ravaging the West — and the ability to hold blood-collection events has been further compromised, leading to unprecedented fluctuations in the nation’s blood supply, the statement adds. And the looming flu season, in addition to recent spikes in the numbers of COVID-19 diagnoses across the country, could hurt the supply even further.

 

Since blood has a short shelf life and cannot be stored for long, the nation’s blood supply must be replenished constantly, even during “normal” times.2 That’s why it’s so important that people who are eligible to donate do so not only now, during this season of giving, but throughout the year.

Blood donation stats

Who Is Eligible to Donate Blood?

While specific criteria are dictated by individual blood banks, the basic requirements for donation are fairly simple, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health:3

 

  You must be at least 16 years old.
  You must weigh at least 110 pounds (there is no upper weight limit).
  You must be in good health.

 

According to the American Red Cross,4 fewer than 38 percent of people are eligible to donate blood. Requirements vary by donor center, but conditions that may disqualify you from donating (or that may require you to wait a certain amount of time before donating) include the following:3,5

 

  Anemia
  Current or recent antibiotic use
  HIV
  Pregnancy

  Sickle cell disease

  Having a cold or the flu

  Having received a blood transfusion within the past year
  Having traveled to certain locations outside the United States within the past three years

How Do Blood Banks Keep the Blood Supply Safe?

According to the AABB, all blood is tested for the following conditions after it is drawn:6

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  Babesia, a parasitic disease that affects the red blood cells (in states where testing is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
  Hepatitis B
  Hepatitis C

  HIV-1 and HIV-2
  HTLV-I and HTLV-II
  Syphilis

  Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas' disease, a potentially serious parasitic disease
  West Nile virus
  Zika virus

Hand squeezing rubber ball while giving blood

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In addition, since June 15, 2020, the American Red Cross tests all blood for COVID-19 antibodies.7 Many other blood banks are doing so as well.

How Do Blood Banks Keep Donors Safe?

In addition to the safety standards already being followed to help prevent the spread of infection (for instance, staffers change gloves between donors, regularly wipe down all areas that donors have touched, use sterile collection sets for each donation, use an aseptic scrub on all donors’ arms prior to donation and do mini-physicals to make sure donors aren’t sick), blood banks nationwide have instituted new safety measures to help keep blood-bank workers and donors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Red Cross, for instance, does the following:8

 

  The temperatures of all staff and donors are checked before entering a blood donation facility.
  All staff and donors are required to wear face masks.
  Hand sanitizer is provided for staff and donors.

  Social distancing protocols are followed in waiting rooms, donation rooms and refreshment areas.
  Surfaces and equipment are disinfected more often.
  Blankets are washed after each use.

 

So please, consider donating blood, and encourage your patients, friends and family to do so as well. It’s safe. It’s easy. And it’s the right thing to do.

Learn More

For more information on GivingTuesday, visit givingtuesday.org.

For more information on blood donation, visit the AABB at https://www.aabb.org/for-donors-patients, the American Red Cross at redcrossblood.org or America’s Blood Centers at https://americasblood.org/for-donors/.

Footnotes:
1 Joint Statement on the Blood Supply, AABB, Oct. 2020: http://www.aabb.org/advocacy/statements/Documents/statement201016.pdf
2 Why Donate, America’s Blood Centers, Accessed Nov. 2020:  https://americasblood.org/for-donors/why-donate/
3 Volunteer Blood Donation, National Heart Lung, Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Accessed Nov. 2020: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-donation
4 Blood Needs & Blood Supply, American Red Cross Blood Services, Accessed Nov. 2020: https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/how-blood-donations-help/blood-needs-blood-supply.html
5 Requirements by Donation Type, American Red Cross Blood Services, Accessed Nov. 2020: https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/eligibility-requirements.html
6 FAQs About Blood and Blood Donation, AABB, Accessed Nov. 2020: http://www.aabb.org/tm/donation/Pages/donatefaqs.aspx

 

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