April is National Minority Health Month — a time to raise awareness about health disparities that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority populations. The American Red Cross is reminding blood donors it’s critically important to maintain a stable blood supply this spring to support those with chronic illnesses and other blood needs in the U.S.
Blood transfusions remain one of the most critical treatments for patients like those living with sickle cell disease – the majority of whom are of African and Latin descent – and beta thalassemia major, which disproportionately affects those of Asian descent. Additionally, women who are Black are more likely than women who are white to experience severe postpartum hemorrhage, often requiring blood transfusion. To help ensure all patients have access to the blood products they count on, donors are urged to make an appointment by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
As a thank-you, those who come to give through April 18 will receive an exclusive Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last. Those who come to give April 19-May 19 will receive a $10 e-gift card to a merchant of choice and will be automatically entered to win a new travel trailer camper that sleeps eight, all courtesy of our partners at Suburban Propane. (Terms apply, see rcblood.org/camper.)
Health insights for donors
As a benefit to donors, the Red Cross provides vital health insights to help aid in awareness, prevention, early detection and monitoring for better health outcomes. All presenting blood donors receive a free mini-health screening with insights on pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin. Vital signs are recorded in the donor’s online profile where they can track and monitor their results via the Red Cross Blood Donor App or at RedCrossBlood.org and share the results with their health care provider.
Additional health details
The Red Cross is testing blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. The test may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus after vaccination or past exposure, regardless of whether they developed symptoms.
Plasma from routine blood, platelet and plasma donations that have high levels of COVID-19 antibodies may be used as convalescent plasma to meet potential future needs of COVID-19 patients with weakened immune systems.
The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose infection, referred to as a diagnostic test. To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who have been asked to quarantine or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation until they are symptom free for 10 days and feeling well and healthy.
At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.
Donors can expect to receive antibody testing results and sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.
Blood drive safety
Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows high standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.
Save time during donation
Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.
About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.