Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, and if one or more severely injured patients need multiple transfusions, a blood bank’s supply may have to limit other routine cases.
COVID-19 has only heightened concerns as infections shut down blood drives and limited the number of donors who could gather in a collection center at the same time.
The good news is that many of us can help.
“Most healthy adults are able to donate blood,” said Dr. Preethi Menon, a transfusion medicine doctor with University Health. “One donation of whole blood can help save up to three lives."
Who Can Donate Blood?
In Texas, the basic donor requirements are simple: You must be 17 years of age or 16 with parental consent and weigh at least 115 pounds.
The U.S. Food and Drug administration has also lifted or relaxed some restrictions that prevented donation.
The FDA no longer bans donations from individuals who traveled to parts of Europe, where health officials worried about infection from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, commonly called “mad cow” disease.
It has also reduced the waiting period from 12 months or more to just three months for donors who:
- Got tattoos at a business licensed by the state
- Have traveled to countries where malaria is prevalent
- Are men who have had sex with other men
“This category of men who have sex with men, that population has the highest risk of HIV transmission,” Dr. Menon said. “So that is the main reason the FDA still has a deferral period (for them).” The American Red Cross lists detailed information for LGBTQ donors.
Medical Conditions and Blood Donation
Some medical conditions and medications may prevent or delay donation, but most do not. If you have had COVID-19, for example, you are still eligible to donate blood. You must simply wait until 14 days after you no longer have symptoms.
“There are a lot of myths around how certain medications or medical conditions may prevent someone from being able to donate," Dr. Menon said. "There definitely are some, but there are sources that everyone can look at to see."
The blood donor screening sheet on the University Health website lists guidelines and exceptions while stressing how easy and important it is to become a donor.
And you can feel good about what you are doing. By sitting quietly on a couch for 30-minutes and giving blood, you may be saving the life of someone who is unexpectedly injured and is depending on a transfusion to survive.
Where to Donate
Schedule an appointment to give blood at University Health at donatebloodtoday.com.