Choose the health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.
There are all kinds of ways to help your community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe you’ve been checking in on neighbors more often, 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 Necessary During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Consider this: According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), every two seconds, one person 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. But according to the FDA, the number of blood donations is down. The donated blood supply has been reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic because of social distancing and the cancelation of local blood drives.
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. According to 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. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, your blood plasma — the yellowish liquid component of blood — may contain antibodies to 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.
Plasma collected from people who have recovered from coronavirus, known as convalescent plasma, is being used to help people with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections.
Although many businesses are closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak, 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, the first thing to do is call your local blood donation center to see if you’re eligible for blood donation and make an appointment.
During the coronavirus 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 coronavirus. Contact the blood donation center and ask about their requirements.
You Pass All Standard Requirements to Give Blood
Contact your blood donation center to learn about their specific requirements and protocol during the pandemic. 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 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, such as the Kentucky Blood Center (listed below), may ask that you don’t donate blood at this time if, in the past 28 days, for example:
- You have been diagnosed with COVID-19
- You have been outside the contiguous 48 states or you have been anywhere in the state of New York
- You have lived with, had close contact with or provided care to an individual diagnosed with COVID-19
So, just be sure to call your local blood donation center ahead of time to make sure you’re eligible to donate and to make an appointment for blood donation before arriving at the donation center.
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 basic face masks, if available
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 viruses and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Before Your Appointment
To make sure you’re ready to donate, the American Red Cross suggests these to-do’s:
- 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 American Red Cross indicates that the process takes just eight to 10 minutes.
If you’re donating platelets, the process can take roughly two hours. During your blood donation appointment, feel free to listen to music, talk to other donors or catch up on your reading.
According to the American Red Cross, 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)
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 on how to safely help your community during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the AdventHealth Coronavirus Resource Hub.