Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs lifesaving blood. Many patients who have major surgeries need a blood transfusion, and blood transfusions are also used for patients who have serious injuries from car crashes or natural disasters, and people with illnesses that cause anemia, like leukemia or kidney disease.
Since March 2020, challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a 10 percent overall decline in the number of people donating blood and a 62 percent decrease in blood drives at schools and colleges, according to the American Red Cross. Ongoing blood drive cancellations due to illness, weather-related closures, and staffing shortages have also contributed to the drop in donations. Because of all these factors, the nation—and Pennsylvania is no exception—is experiencing a severe blood shortage.
Approximately 29,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the United States, and blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help provide vital medical treatments. Each red blood cell transfusion requires three units of blood, and a car accident victim can require up to 100 units.
There is no substitute for human blood — all transfusions use blood from a donor, and the inventory of donated blood must be constantly replenished. Donated platelets can be stored for use for as long as five days. Donated red blood cells can be stored for use for up to 42 days.
Although all blood types are needed to help end the blood crisis and ensure the supply is available when it’s needed, these are the blood types that are most urgently needed:
Type O positive - the most common blood type. 38 percent of the population has O-positive blood.
Type O negative - the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations. Because only 7 percent of people in the United States are type O negative, this type is always in great demand and often in short supply.
Platelets - the clotting portion of blood, which must be transfused within five days of donation. Nearly half of all platelet donations are given to patients undergoing cancer treatments.
Blood donors are needed to help ease the strain on the nation’s blood supply and save lives. Donating blood is quick, safe, and easy—and a single donation can help save up to three lives. If you're able, consider consistently donating blood throughout the year.
In Pennsylvania, most people can donate blood every 56 days, up to six times a year, if they are at least 16 years old, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, and are in good health and feeling well. Additional eligibility criteria apply, including certain medications, medical conditions, travel to certain countries, and personal history.
To learn more and make an appointment to donate blood, contact the American Red Cross Greater Pennsylvania Region or find a blood drive near you.Mount Nittany Health includes Mount Nittany Physician Group, with more than 170 healthcare providers across more than 30 specialties in 17 convenient locations.