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How to prepare to donate blood

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The COVID-19 virus has had a ripple effect that has impacted every facet of life since the World Health Organization first declared a global pandemic nearly two years ago. Individuals are well aware of the effects the pandemic has had on their daily lives, but one lesser known yet significant impact of the virus could have a lasting effect.

Blood donations have dropped considerably since the onset of the pandemic. Even a return to relative normalcy has not solved the emergency blood and platelets shortage. At the end of September 2021, the American Red Cross acknowledged it was facing a significant blood and platelet shortage. According to the Red Cross, the spread of the Delta variant had, by the end of summer 2021, spurred fears and sparked the lowest levels of donor turnout all year. Estimates from the Red Cross by the end of September 2021 suggested the group needed to collect 10,000 additional blood products per week in order to meet the growing demand for blood and platelets.

Blood donation is a selfless act that saves lives every day, and organizations like the Red Cross note that it's safe to donate even as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 virus. For instance, the Red Cross requires that everyone at blood drives and blood donation centers wear a face mask regardless of their vaccination status. In addition, Red Cross protocols allow for face shields, but not as a substitute for face masks.

Individuals who want to donate can make the process go smoothly by following these day of donation tips, courtesy of the Red Cross.

· Start your RapidPass®. After booking an appointment, donors can start their RapidPass® before they arrive at a blood drive or donation center. The RapidPass® is a form that asks donors for some basic information, including their health histories, and takes about 10 to 15 minutes to fill out. Once the form is completed, donors can print it our or email it to themselves and bring it with them to their donation appointments. Filling the form out ahead of an appointment can make appointments go more quickly.

· Bring additional personal information. Donors will need a photo ID, such as a donor card or driver's license, so donation center workers can confirm their identities. A list of additional forms of acceptable photo identification can be found at redcrossblood.org. Donors also should bring a list of prescription and over-the-counter medications they're taking.

· Hydrate prior to your appointment. The Red Cross recommends donors drink an extra pint of water, or another nonalcoholic beverage, prior to their donation appointment.

· Wear appropriate attire. A shirt with sleeves that easily roll up above the elbow is ideal when donating blood.

· Let donation center employees know about previous donor experiences. Donors can share valuable information about past donation experiences that they think are relevant with donation center employees. For example, if donors recall a particular vein that was easily accessible at a previous donation, share that information this time around.

· Relax. Some relaxing music or lighthearted conversation with fellow donors can help donors soothe any nerves they might have during the donation process.

Medical facilities are in need of blood and platelet donations. Individuals can learn more about what they can to do help overcome shortages at redcrossblood.org.

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