Get Involved: Donate Blood. Save Lives.

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June 14 is World Blood Donor Day.

The nation’s blood supply needs your help. Donating blood is a simple, safe way to get involved and help save lives in your community.

Why donate?

Think of the nation’s blood supply like the gasoline in a car’s fuel tank. The supply of blood must be refilled regularly to keep up with the demand of hospitals and emergency treatment facilities. Every two seconds, a patient somewhere in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion.(1)

The American Red Cross is the gas station in this analogy. They are the largest single supplier of blood and blood products in the United States.

Rodney Wilson is a spokesperson at the American Red Cross. He says the nation’s need for blood donations is constant, “Each day, the Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood donations for patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide. This need doesn’t stop for the season, weather, holiday, or a pandemic.”

However, due to the many safety protocols put in place during COVID-19, and many places being unable to host blood drives, it has been difficult to maintain an adequate blood supply. Wilson says that the pandemic’s effects on donations are ongoing. “The Red Cross continues to feel the effects of COVID-19. Each month, roughly 1,000 drives are canceled,” he said.

Summer months can be a challenging time to collect blood. Observances like World Blood Donor Day on June 14 are a time to thank donors and remind people of the importance of blood donation.

Donating blood is a simple, quick, and effective way for eligible individuals to get involved in their community. Most healthy adults can donate without experiencing any side effects.(2)

What to donate

You have more to offer than just blood. Here are the four types of donations you can make. Eligibility requirements differ for each type.

  • Whole blood: This is the most common and flexible type of donation where they simply take approximately one pint of your blood.
  • Red cells (Power Red): You give a concentrated donation of red blood cells which can have a greater impact on patients.
  • Platelets: You donate the tiny cells in your blood that form clots. These donations can only be done at Red Cross donation centers, not at blood drives.
  • Plasma: You donate the part of your blood used to treat patients in emergencies.

Right now, the Red Cross asks eligible individuals to give blood or platelets to help meet the everyday needs of hospitals and patients, including survivors of trauma, people with cancer, and people with sickle cell disease.

Where to donate

Blood donations can occur at a blood bank, blood donation center, mobile facility, or hospital. Contact the following organizations to find a local blood collection site and schedule an appointment:

The Red Cross Blood Donor app is another way to find a place to donate and get notified of blood drives in your area. The app also records an individual’s donation history, blood type, and notifies donors of the results of their blood screening.

Prepare to donate

Now that you’ve decided what and where to donate, here’s some information to help you prepare for your appointment.

Before your donation

  • Eat iron-rich foods such as meat, fish, poultry, spinach, iron-fortified cereals, or raisins.
  • Get a good night’s sleep and drink extra liquids to be sure that you’re well-hydrated.
  • If you’re going to donate platelets, do not take aspirin products for two days prior to your appointment. (3)
  • Learn more about Red Cross donation safety protocols.

During your donation

  • Bring a photo ID and a list of any prescription or over-the-counter medicines that you take.
  • If you received a COVID-19 vaccine, remember the name of the manufacturer, and inform the staff.
  • Wear a short-sleeve shirt or a shirt with sleeves that you can roll up to your elbows.
  • Let staff know of a preferred arm or a particular vein that has been successfully used to draw blood in the past.
  • Relax, listen to music, or meditate.

After your donation

  • Relax for a few minutes and have a snack. Many donation sites offer complimentary cookies and juice.
  • Drink an extra four (8 oz.) glasses of liquids and avoid alcohol for 24 hours.
  • Let others know that you donated.

Blood safety basics

CDC is one of the federal agencies responsible for assuring the safety of the U.S. blood supply through investigations and surveillance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ensures the safety of blood donations and protects the health of donors. The National Institutes of Health carries out research on blood transfusion basic science, epidemiology, and clinical practices.

Learn more ways to prepare your health for emergencies.

References

  1. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-blood-donations
  2. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-donation
  3. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations/platelet-donation.html

Resources

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Page last reviewed: June 15, 2021
Page last updated: June 15, 2021