Donating blood can be intimidating. Needles are scary, and you may have heard one too many tales of people passing out after a blood drive. However, becoming a blood donor is more critical in the wake of COVID-19.

Since 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a decline in the number of people donating blood each year. The number fell further in 2020 because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its blood safety protocols to protect against COVID, resulting in the cancellation of many blood drives.

The blood from donors is used for transfusions, surgeries, and many other important medical operations. According to the American Red Cross, nearly 13,000 blood donations are needed daily for patients in almost 2,500 hospitals in its network.

If donating blood is something that interests you, it’s important to know what to expect. If you’ve already given blood before, a refresher is always helpful – especially since some of the guidelines have changed. Here are three things you need to know about blood safety and giving blood.

The FDA screens potential blood donors for transmissible diseases.

Before you even see a needle, the FDA requires that you fill out a questionnaire containing information about diseases you may have or have been exposed to. The FDA also routinely screens donated blood for infectious diseases. Blood has to be uninfected to be useful to patients that need it.

It’s possible to donate more than just blood.

While whole blood is the most commonly donated, there are three other parts of your blood that you can donate. Donating red cells can impact patients more and involves giving a concentration of red blood cells. Platelets help stop clots and are also an option for donation, but you can only donate platelets at American Red Cross donation centers. Plasma donations help treat patients with medical emergencies.

Specific information and preparation are required when participating in a blood drive.

Bring a photo ID and a list of any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you take. Wearing a short-sleeved shirt and knowing which of your veins has been used to successfully draw blood in the past are just a couple of ways you can make your experience smoother. Also, if you’ve received your Covid vaccination, remember the name of the manufacturer and communicate that information to the blood drive’s staff.

While it’s nearly impossible to know if you’ll ever need blood or platelets, there are plenty of people who already do and choosing to be a blood donor is one way that you can have a positive impact on someone else’s health.

The CDC has more information about giving blood that can be found at Be sure to check out the page on blood safety basics, too:

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