Since 1970 January has been designated as National Blood Donation month. During the winter months, blood donations decline, but the number of people who need blood is the same, sometimes greater. Winter weather conditions cause scheduled blood drives to be cancelled. Winter is also the flu season and a time when illnesses increase, and, of course, people who are ill can’t donate. And these days, because of the current pandemic, blood donations are even more scarce.
Blood makes up about 8% of your body weight. It is the fluid that carries oxygen to the cells of the body. Blood is made from a combination of red cells, platelets and white cells in a liquid plasma.
- Red blood cells carry oxygen you inhale into your lungs, delivering the oxygen to all the vital organs in your body. The red cells also remove carbon dioxide, taking it to your lungs where it leaves your body as you exhale.
- The white blood cells are important for a healthy immune system and help fight viruses, bacteria and other infectious diseases.
- Platelets are cell fragments that form blood clots to prevent bleeding.
- Plasma, the liquid portion of the blood is 90% water. It contains antibodies needed to fight infection as well as hormones, glucose, proteins, electrolytes, and nutrients.
Because blood is made up of different parts that serve different purposes, a single unit (pint) donation can be separated into three parts and save up to three lives.
Donating blood is safe and easy
You can donate blood if you are over the age of 17, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in good health. Teenagers who are 16 can also donate with a parent’s written consent. There are some conditions that may disqualify you from donating, for complete information please visit the American Red Cross website.
Donating blood today, during the pandemic, is as safe as ever. All donors and staff are required to wear face masks, temperatures are checked, hand sanitizer is provided throughout the process, and all furniture is spaced out to follow social distancing requirements. While you can’t get tested for COVID-19 at the donation site the Red Cross is checking blood donations for coronavirus antibodies. If the antibodies are present in your blood donation, your blood may be used as convalescent plasma.
Convalescent plasma is a term that has been featured lately in the news related to the coronavirus. Because plasma contains antibodies from fighting off infections, people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 often have these antibodies in their blood. By transfusing the plasma from someone who has recovered and has the antibodies into someone who is infected and ill with COVID-19, the plasma may be able to help the sick person recover. On August 23, 2020 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that “it is reasonable to believe that COVID-19 convalescent plasma may be effective in lessening the severity or shortening the length of COVID-19 illness in some hospitalized patients.”
Only 10% of the people who are eligible to donate blood choose to do so. That’s a startling fact when you consider everything that is possible with a simple donation. Every two seconds someone in the United States will need blood, that’s 38,000 donations needed every day. If you are able, consider making a blood donation today.