Is blood in short supply? What can I do?

Health & Wellness

🩸 Yes, the Red Cross declared a national blood crisis in January 2022 during the peak omicron surge.

The Red Cross started the first civilian blood donation program in the 1940s and provides almost half of all blood products in the U.S. So when they state there is a crisis, we can be pretty confident that it is for real. According to the Red Cross, in January 2022, supplies were at the lowest they have been in the past 10 years. According to the Red Cross, there has been an overall 10% decrease in the number of donations since March 2020. Donated blood is essential for regular hospital care.

💧 Why would there be no blood?

There are many factors, but experts state that this is not a new problem because of donors getting older (and fewer young people giving blood), closing of some community blood donation sites, and fewer blood drives because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has made blood donations harder and harder to come by over the past few years.

❤️ Why does this matter?

When there aren’t enough blood donations and blood products stored, it could impact the care you receive when you go to the hospital. Many people need blood on a regular basis such as cancer patients (who often need platelets) and people with blood disorders (like sickle cell disease). There are also other reasons that people would need a blood transfusion like if they are in an accident. Having blood ready and available when people need it is critical for this reason. And blood products have an expiration date. Red blood cells only last for a little over a month when stored and platelets only last about 5 days. This means that having a stable and regular supply of donors is really important to make sure that there are constantly enough blood products. In some parts of the country, there may be only one blood donation site and one day’s worth of blood stores. Some patients will have to defer care and hospitals may ration care based on available supplies.

🌎 Why can’t we get blood from other places?

Almost all blood in the U.S. comes from domestic donors. A little bit of it comes from Western Europe. Even though there has been quite a bit of research on artificial blood products, there is still not enough evidence for their widespread use. Because there aren’t good substitutes yet, blood donation is still critical in making sure we have enough blood to meet the needs of people who need it and for routine hospital care. Here is a little more about artificial blood and platelet research happening. Here is another quick explainer on blood substitutes.

💪🏾 What can I do?

Donate blood if you can. Tell other people to donate blood. And educate others on who can donate blood and how. Blood supply depends on donation. So volunteers are critical to making sure that we have enough blood available. 🅾️ The Red Cross notes that they especially need type O+ and O- blood type donors and platelet donations. 🅾️ O+ blood is the most commonly transfused and can go to any person with a + on the end of their blood type; type O- blood is often used in emergency settings when the blood type is unknown. Even if you don’t know your blood type, you can still donate. Your blood type will be checked once your blood is collected. Donation from people who are from minority groups is also important because there are some rare blood types that are only present among minority populations (You can read more on this here.

🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏽 Who can give blood?

Anyone who is in good health, 5’4” and 110 pounds weight or under 5’4” and 120lbs weight, AND 17 years old (or 16 years old with consent from a parent/guardian). You can find the full Red Cross Donation Criteria here.

➡️ The bottom line: There is not enough blood to meet the needs of routine and emergency care in and out of the hospital. Blood supplies depend on donations in the U.S. and in many parts of the world. If you are able, you can donate blood now.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Those Nerdy Girls

Additional links:

WHYY national blood shortage

How to help amid shortage (January)

Information on the National Blood Shortage from the Poyntner Report January 12

Red Cross website

Link to Original FB Post