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During ‘trauma season’ the need for blood donations increases; what donors should know before giving

Dr. Morgan McCoy
University of Kentucky

For many, Memorial Day weekend is seen as a yearly milestone to kick-off the summer season. But while the arrival of summer can be exciting, Memorial Day weekend also is a signifier that “trauma season” has arrived.

Trauma season is the series of months in the year where the warm weather and increase in outdoor activities also increases the number of life-threatening injuries coming into emergency departments. With an increase in life-threatening injuries, there is also an increase in the need for blood transfusions. In fact, a single critically injured patient has the potential to nearly deplete the hospital’s blood supply. Therefore, it is crucial for people to donate blood regularly if they are able.

(Photo from Getty Images, via University of Kentucky)

The National Trauma Institute says that trauma accounts for 41 million emergency department visits and 2.3 million hospital admissions in the U.S. annually. Often, the blood supply on hand in the hospital’s blood bank can mean life or death for patients with serious injuries.

Donated blood can provide several different life-saving products: whole blood, red blood cells (RBC), plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitate. All five of these products are used differently and are in critical need during trauma season. While O positive blood and O negative blood donors are known as the “universal RBC donors” and are always in high demand, all blood types are incredibly valuable and can help save lives across the nation.

Donating blood can seem intimidating, but it is actually much easier than one may think. Here are some tips for first-time donors:

• On the day of your donation, drink an extra 16 oz. of water before your appointment;
• at a healthy meal before arriving;
• Wear a shirt without sleeves or with sleeves that can roll up above the elbow;
• Relax, listen to music, talk to other donors or read while you donate.

After donating:

• Enjoy a salty snack and be sure to have iron-rich meals;
• Drink extra liquids and avoid alcohol for 24 hours;
• Keep your arm bandage on for the next several hours;
• Avoid any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for the rest of the day.

Unsure if you can give blood? Here are some general guidelines for what a good candidate may look like:

• Be in good general health and feeling well;
• Be at least 17 years of age or older in most states;
• Weigh at least 110 pounds;
• Have not donated blood in the last 56 days.

Patients in need of blood come in many shapes and sizes, extending beyond the critically injured. Patients undergoing chemotherapy, premature babies, transplant patients, elective surgery patients and patients with a variety of other conditions may require blood transfusions as well. Therefore, blood donation is critical during trauma season, when the entire community’s need is higher than ever.

Morgan H. McCoy, M.D., Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

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