By Dr. Gerard Muraida
The Covid 19 pandemic has taken its toll on everything from the supply chain to grocery store shelves. Recently, it’s been wreaking havoc on the national blood supply, as our health care system struggles to keep up with daily illnesses compounded by Covid surges.
The American Red Cross announced just weeks ago that it is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. The reasons for the shortage include a 10 percent decline in blood donations since March 2020; ongoing blood drive cancellations due to illness, weather-related closures and staffing limitations; and a 62 percent drop in college and high school blood drives due to the pandemic.
Though campus blood donations typically increase during the spring when students return after the holidays, many colleges and universities are expected to turn to virtual learning again. This could further impact the already precarious blood drought.
To avert a greater crisis, the American Red Cross is seeking blood donations from anyone qualified to give. A donor must be in good health and not sick at the time of donation. Donors may be turned away if they are suffering from a cold, flu or other illnesses, and if there is a history of low iron or chronic infections. Donors should also be at weigh at least 110 pounds and be 16 years old, but there is no upper age limit.
A study in the journal “Transfusion” recently concluded that “exclusion solely based on older age appears to be unwarranted based on safety concerns such as donor reactions. Healthy older individuals can continue to safely donate and make a significant contribution to the blood supply past arbitrary age limits.”
If a person has traveled outside the U.S. in the last three years to a country considered a malaria risk, that could be cause to exclude the person from donating.
Generally, a person can donate blood every 56 days, and you don’t need to know your blood type to give.
Before you go out and roll up your sleeves, please consult with your health care provider to determine if you might be a donor candidate. Meantime, love your community this Valentine’s month by telling your healthy family and friends about the dire need for blood donations.
Be safe and stay well!