Each summer, warmer weather and outdoor activities bring joy to most, but the season also surfaces many urgent medical needs. Unfortunately, the summer season also brings a decline in blood donations and therefore a deficit in the blood supply. The American Red Cross announced that there’s an urgent need for blood donations – the current national blood supply has dipped below the five-day level the Red Cross needs on hand to ensure it’s ready for unexpected emergencies.
People have plenty of explanations for not donating blood in the summer. We hear that the regular donors become too busy with summer activities and vacations. With high schools and colleges on break, their typical blood drives are on hiatus, too. And now, with the emergence of Zika virus, blood centers must ask anyone who has visited a location for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Zika travel notice to wait 28 days before giving. This deferral period may mean that donors who plan to give may not be able to until their waiting period is over.
To help prevent a potential shortfall this summer, let’s debunk the three most common excuses for not donating blood.
Excuse 1: Other people are giving blood, so I don’t need to.
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. While 38 percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood, less than 10 percent donate each year. Also, blood is not just used for emergencies, but also in the treatment of chronic diseases, such as sickle cell disease or cancer. The blood products used in these scenarios need to be on the shelf beforehand.
Given these factors, it is important for donors to schedule appointments to donate blood, as regular donations are critical to maintaining a healthy blood supply.
Excuse 2: All donated blood components last a long time.
Certain blood components have a short shelf life. Red blood cells, which may be used to treat chronic anemia among people with kidney failure or blood loss due to trauma, last for up to 42 days. Platelets, which may be used during the treatment of cancer patients and during surgeries, such as organ transplants, last for five days.
Because blood components do expire, blood centers depend on those people who are eligible to give regularly to help meet the daily need for this lifesaving gift.
Excuse 3: I can’t give blood because [insert reason here]…
Many people think that they can’t give blood for various reasons, but these beliefs may not be true. In almost all cases, medications will not disqualify blood donors. Donor eligibility will be based on the reason that the medication was prescribed. As long as the condition is under control and the donor is healthy, blood donation may be permitted.
First-time donors are sometimes concerned about how safe the process is for giving blood. Donating blood is very safe. The supplies used to collect blood are sterile and only used once, so donors cannot get HIV or any other infectious disease from donating blood.
Another reason why people don’t give blood is time. In the fast-paced environment that we live in today, it’s hard to ask people to give to causes that require more of our time. To inspire and motivate people around the world to regularly donate, last year, Abbott, a global healthcare innovator, launched the BE THE 1™ Donor campaign with world renowned soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo, Forward for Real Madrid and Captain for Portugal’s national team.
Ronaldo first gave blood when he was 24 years old after witnessing a teammate struggle to secure bone marrow donations for his young son. Since then, he has continued to donate regularly and has avoided any activities that would delay him from donating.
As a professional whose job is to help keep the blood supply safe, I understand the importance of a healthy and reliable blood supply. As someone who personally benefited from receiving blood transfusions following a serious car accident 17 years ago, I understand how every blood donation has the potential to save a life.