Basic laws of economics tell us that when the demand for a commodity outpaces the supply, you will have a shortage on your hands. It’s one thing when this happens with the latest hot toy during the holidays, and another thing entirely when it happens to the blood supply.
But, says the American Red Cross, the U.S. blood supply is dealing with just that situation: many people need blood and too few people are donating.
Why we need blood
Blood transfusions are vital in numerous medical situations-- procedures as mundane as a routine cyst removal to an emergency organ transplant require blood transfusions, often many of them. In the case of natural disasters, blood units must be on hand to keep survivors stable. Blood is especially critical in times of extreme heat when people become overheated and dehydrated.
SLIDESHOW: Eight Plant-Based Sources of Protein
Without an adequate supply of blood, the body begins to deteriorate quickly. It deteriorates even faster when the body is under stress or in any kind of crisis.
Summers tough on blood supplies
According to the Red Cross, which provides about half of the U.S. blood supply, the number of expected donors in the summer of 2012 is down significantly while the demand for blood continues to climb.
Summer is a particularly precarious time for blood banks for two reasons. First, the need for blood transfusions usually increases due to extreme summer weather – usually heat and natural disasters. Second, the number of blood donors, especially those who give blood regularly, usually drops off. Often, this happens because regular donors are on vacation, plus popular blood drive locations, such as schools and universities, are out of session for the summer.
The blood shortage in numbers
The Red Cross needs about 17,000 donations every day to keep pace with the demand.
The organization put out an emergency appeal for blood donations in late June and 15,000 more donors than expected rolled up their sleeves to give blood in July. This surge in donations has cut the blood deficit by about 30 percent, but more are needed, especially as the severe weather season continues.
All blood types are needed, but blood types O negative, O positive, A negative and B negative are especially encouraged to donate. These types are particularly helpful because they are the most universally compatible with other blood types.
How to donate
Donating blood will take about an hour of your time. To be eligible to donate you must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health. Once you’ve successfully donated, you are eligible to donate again in 56 days. Call the American Red Cross for more information and the schedule an appointment (1-800-RED-CROSS)
The American Red Cross, Blood Donation website. Retrieved on August 12, 2012: http://www.redcrossblood.org/