There are all kinds of ways to help your community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe you’ve been calling to check in on neighbors or you’ve bought gift cards to help keep local businesses afloat. But another important way to help is by donating blood.
Blood Donations Are Still Needed During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Consider this: according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), every two seconds, someone needs a blood transfusion. In health care settings in your community and across the country, donated blood is a potentially life-saving and essential part of caring for patients.
According to the American Red Cross, blood donations are critical for:
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
People with sickle cell disease
Trauma victims from car accidents
During the coronavirus pandemic, donated blood is needed more than ever. The Red Cross states that they need the help of blood and platelet donors, as well as blood drive hosts, to meet the needs of patient care.
In Donating Blood, You’re Helping Save Lives From COVID-19
When you donate blood, you’re providing a life-saving service, like health care providers, first responders and other essential workers, says the FDA: “People who donate blood are equivalent to those people who are working in a critical infrastructure industry. In volunteering to do so, they are contributing immeasurably to the public health of our nation.”
Donating Blood to Help Cure Coronavirus
If you’ve recently recovered from COVID-19, you may be part of the cure for coronavirus. Your blood plasma — the yellowish liquid component of blood — may contain antibodies that can attack coronavirus, which might help someone else who is critically ill fight the disease.
At participating blood donation centers (including many listed at the end of this article) the FDA is exploring an investigational treatment using plasma from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19. This convalescent plasma is being used to help people with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections.
Although many businesses are operating on different schedules or even closed because of COVID-19, blood donation centers aren’t among them. They are open and in urgent need of donations.
Who’s Eligible to Donate Blood During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 13.2 million blood donors in the U.S. To count yourself among them, start by calling your local blood donation center to see if you’re eligible and make an appointment.
During the pandemic, you may be eligible to donate blood if you meet these requirements:
You Are Healthy
The CDC encourages people who are well to continue to donate blood if they are able, even if they are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19.
You Have Recovered From COVID-19
You may be eligible to donate blood plasma if you have recovered from COVID-19. Contact a blood donation center and ask about their requirements.
You Pass All Standard Requirements to Give Blood
According to Advancing Transfusion and Cellular Therapies Worldwide, an international nonprofit association dedicated to advancing transfusion medicine, to donate blood, you must be at least 16 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in basic good health.
If you’re 16, some states may need a signed parent consent form before donating, according to the American Red Cross.
Can Someone Get COVID-19 From Donated Blood?
The FDA indicates that generally, respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there haven’t been any reported cases of coronavirus from a blood transfusion. COVID-19 is thought to be transmitted from person to person through droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Out of an abundance of caution and to help slow the spread of COVID-19 infection, some blood donation centers may ask that you don’t donate blood at this time if you’ve recently been exposed to coronavirus or are experiencing any possible symptoms.
Be sure to contact your local blood donation center ahead of time to learn about any requirements or restrictions.
Blood Donation Safety Measures During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The CDC is supporting blood centers by providing recommendations that will keep donors and staff safe with enhanced protocols. Examples include:
Arranging to call donors’ mobile phones when it’s time for them to come in and donate blood, and donors can stay in their car until they’re called
Encouraging donors to make donation appointments ahead of time to help manage patient flow
Requiring employees and volunteers experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms to remain at home and get a medical evaluation before returning to work
Requiring staff to change gloves and wash their hands with soap and water between contacts with blood donors
Spacing chairs in the waiting and refreshments areas and donor cots in the collection area 6 feet apart
Thoroughly and consistently cleaning and disinfecting the donor station, according to standard facility protocols, after each donor has left
The safety of blood donors, volunteers, employees and blood recipients is a top priority. At blood donation centers, American Red Cross employees are encouraged to follow added safety measures, such as:
Checking a donor’s temperature before they enter the donation center
Laundering blankets after each donation use
Providing antibacterial hand sanitizer for donors before entering and throughout their donation appointment
Wearing face masks
What to Expect When You Donate Blood During COVID-19
As the CDC specifies, you will be asked a set of standard questions before donating to help determine if you’re in good health and free of any diseases that could be transmitted by blood transfusion.
If you’re eligible to donate, your donated blood is tested for blood type (ABO group) and Rh type (positive or negative) to make sure that patients receive blood that matches their blood type. Before a transfusion, the donor and blood unit are also tested for certain proteins (antibodies) that may cause adverse reactions in people receiving a blood transfusion.
All blood for transfusion is tested to make sure it’s free of certain infectious disease pathogens, such as hepatitis B and C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Before Your Appointment
To make sure you’re ready to donate, the American Red Cross suggests these to-dos:
Call your local blood donation center to ask about their protocol during the pandemic
Before your appointment, drink an extra 16 ounces of water and fuel up with a healthy meal, avoiding fatty foods
During your appointment, if you have a preferred arm or vein — maybe you know from having blood drawn in the past — let the staff know
Wear a shirt with sleeves you can roll up above your elbows
During Your Appointment
Giving blood doesn’t take much time. Approximately one pint of blood will be removed from the 10 pints in your body. If you’re donating whole blood, the process can take less than 10 minutes.
If you’re donating platelets, the process can take roughly two hours. During your blood donation appointment, you can typically pass the time by listening to music or reading.
Bring a form of ID, such as your donor card (if you’ve given blood before) and your driver’s license. For more information on what to expect when you donate blood, this post can be helpful.
Where to Donate Blood
If you’d like to donate blood, want to learn more about the donation process or discover other ways you can help, here is a list of resources in your area:
Phone: 888-9-DONATE (936-6283)
Kentucky Blood Center
Community Blood Center
American Red Cross Bloodmobile
Here for You and Your Family
At every stage of the pandemic, we’re here to help you and your family stay safe and healthy. For more information and resources, visit the AdventHealth Coronavirus Resource Hub.