January is National Blood Donor Month, and blood banks need help more than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic. Make giving blood a priority.
2020 has to go; we’ve been ready since June. While it may seem appropriate to send this year packing with a series of literal dumpster fires, why not welcome 2021 with the gift of life instead?
Historically, blood supplies run critically low in January. But why is January so affected that it spurred the Red Cross to create National Blood Donor Month in 1970? If you’ve ever tried to accomplish anything at the end of the year that relies on groups of people cooperating, you know the answer.
The global pandemic already has blood stores worldwide frighteningly low. Organizations that regularly host blood drives have canceled, hospitals have diverted facilities to COVID-19 concerns, and fear surrounding the safety of donating abounds.
What it does for others
The need remains. Blood donations are used for accident victims, organ transplants, cancer treatments, neonatal care, and research. They’re also used for patients battling COVID-19.
Coronavirus survivors carry antibodies needed by those still fighting it. The vaccine becoming available began by studying those antibodies. Much advancement in medical treatment arises from blood donations.
What type means and why it matters
Blood type is determined by antigens and proteins on the surface of red blood cells. There are eight main types. Receiving the wrong type can cause adverse reactions in the body, and there are universal donors and receivers.
Only around 3% of the U.S. population are regular donors. Myths surrounding eligibility requirements keep many people from donating. Most of these myths—like you can’t give blood if you take medication, have a tattoo, or have traveled—are either untrue or at most have a short deferral period. Other conditions like having low iron can be addressed and are good things to know anyway.
What it does for you
As standard protocol, donations are typed and tested for a host of infectious diseases, and now, COVID-19 antibodies. Centers will notify you if you test positive for anything, and you can finally know your blood type.
Is it safe?
The Red Cross and others have instituted procedures to ensure safety. Temperature checks, extra sanitation, mini-physicals, face coverings, and social distancing are some of the measures.