Health Advice



The Red Cross says there's a national blood shortage. Here's how to donate

Madalyn Amato, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

LOS ANGELES — The Red Cross is currently experiencing what it's calling "the worst blood shortage in over a decade."

Always in need of blood, the nonprofit said that the combination of the relentless pandemic and an unusual flu season have exacerbated the preexisting shortage. Overall donations have dropped 10% since March 2020. Students once accounted for 25% of annual donors, but with most on-campus drives canceled, their contribution has fallen by 60%.

Almost every two seconds, a patient in the United States needs a blood transfusion, according to Dr. Ross Herron, divisional chief medical officer for the American Red Cross. With COVID cases and hospitalization rates rising, blood donations are needed now more than ever.

Blood and platelets can be used for a variety of treatments and can be the difference between life and death. Here's how you can help.

What kind of blood is needed?

The Red Cross is in need of all blood types year-round, Herron said, as well as platelets and plasma.


Type O-negative, the so-called "universal" blood type, is always in high demand and often short supply, given that only about 7% of the population has it, he said.

For plasma donations, people with type AB blood are highly encouraged to donate. Those who have types O, A-negative and B-negative are encouraged to make what's called a Power Red donation, where a concentrated dose of red blood cells is collected while most of the plasma and platelets are returned to the donor.

How to donate

Donating usually takes less than an hour, and you get to walk away knowing you helped someone. There are also usually free snacks offered afterwards.


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