Why this year’s summer blood bank shortages are worse than usual

Summer is always a tough time for the area’s blood banks, but this year they’re facing a perfect storm.

Every summer sees a drop in donations because people are traveling, said Red Cross spokeswoman Lisa Futterman, and this year a flood of people are itching to get out after the pandemic.

That doesn’t just depress supply; it increases demand, thanks to a rise in traumatic injuries. “With more people out, that means traumas are more likely to happen than they were during the pandemic,” said Futterman.

In addition, a lot of people are undergoing elective surgeries that they postponed during the pandemic, which also means more need for blood.

Futterman said the demand for blood at hospitals and trauma centers is up 10% over 2019. They’ve distributed 75,000 more blood products than expected in the last three months to meet those needs.

The most needed blood types are O positive and O negative.

“O negative is our universal blood type; O positive is the most transfused blood type in traumas,” she said. “But really, all blood types are needed.”

Blood doesn’t last forever — it has a short shelf life — so the Red Cross is urging people to donate regularly.

“We’re just asking those who are able to donate and feeling healthy and well to please roll up your sleeve,” said Futterman. “It’s short, it’s easy, and you can save up to three lives in just one donation.”

If you are able to donate, she said, some extra safety precautions will still be in place.

“We are still social distancing in the waiting area, and our beds are still being spaced apart,” she said. If you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask at most locations, but you should wear one if you’re not.

Futterman also said the rules can change by locality, so it’s best to check the guidelines before you go.

Also, signing up in advance is the best idea for getting in and out quickly. She recommended using the Red Cross app.

“You can actually follow your blood journey and see where your blood is going, which hospital, what area in the region to help save lives, which I think is really cool,” said Futterman.

You can also make your appointment on their website at www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

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