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What You Need To Know About Donating Blood During A Pandemic

This week, the American Red Cross reported that the country is facing an extreme shortage in blood supply. Following an unprecedented amount of blood drive cancellations due to Covid-19 concerns, the Red Cross has received almost 90,000 fewer blood donations within the past month. Even though blood drives may not be a current reality, it’s imperative that people continue to donate their blood when they can, as patients suffering from the virus rely on it.  

“It’s crucial that people continue to donate blood, especially right now. The large drives that have been canceled by companies, universities, and high schools typically support our blood supply and this has resulted in decreased blood components available for the hospital. The issuing of more shelter-in-place orders continues to reduce the donors we need to support our national blood supply, [but] you can still go out and give blood. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” said Dr. Kimberly Sanford, President-Elect of the American Society for Clinical Pathology and director of transfusion medicine.

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One of the most commonly asked questions regarding blood donation during this pandemic is if one has to be tested for Covid-19 beforehand, and the answer is no. Before you’re even able to donate you have to fill out a screening test that will ask questions regarding your health, possible exposure to Covid-19, potential symptoms you’ve been experiencing, etc. Obviously, if you’ve been even slightly symptomatic, you shouldn’t risk donating, so the test is more to double-check. 

When it comes to the actual process of donating your blood during a pandemic, rest assured that most blood collection agencies should have several steps in place to ensure that both donors and employees are completely safe during the entire ordeal. Employees who are involved in blood collection have now been required to take their temperatures daily, while also wearing protective gear during the parts of the process that require the donor and employee to be within six feet of each other; otherwise the two individuals will remain distant.  

In addition to the normal health and safety procedures that these blood collection services abide by, employees are also implementing intense disinfecting procedures to their equipment; even the things that donors never make contact with. It’s also important to note that you don’t need to know your blood type when you donate, as the collection agencies are able to determine that after the fact. 

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You have to be at least 17-years-old in the United States to donate blood, however, some states such as California let 16-year-olds donate with parental consent. There’s also no age limit to how old an individual can be to donate, as long as you’re healthy. There is, however, a weight requirement of weighing at least 110 pounds to donate, and this is more in the interest of the donor themselves. 

Other restrictions previously stated that gay men were not able to donate blood if they had sex with another man within 12 months of donating, however, they’ve relaxed that rule to three months now, which has put the American Red Cross under quite a bit of fire.

The FDA has also loosened its regulations regarding tattoos and piercings for donation. Previously, you had to wait a year after getting a new piercing and/or tattoo before you could donate, but they’ve moved that down to three months now as well. 

If you aren’t sure where you can donate blood, visit the American Red Cross website and enter in your zip code to find a blood drive location near you. Healthy individuals are able to donate blood every 56 days, but if you’re donating platelets you can donate every seven days as well. So if you have the means to, call the Red Cross or visit their website today to see what your donation options are.