Officials at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are asking the public to step up their blood donations this summer. Blood donations typically slow down in the summer as more people travel or otherwise disconnect from their normal routines — but the summer is precisely when demand for blood and plasma goes up, explained Charif Masri, who manages transfusion medicine at Children’s Hospital.
“Because people are traveling [there are] more accidents. That increases the usage of blood at several hospitals,” Masri told KPCC.
Another challenge? Newly emerging diseases like Zika and West Nile virus pose a risk to the local blood supply. There are also restrictions for donors who have traveled to a country where they may have been exposed to malaria.
About 7 percent of the population volunteers to give blood — but many are turned away because of potential exposure to disease, recent piercings and tattoos or because of personal health complications that don’t allow them to donate, like low levels of iron. Ultimately, only about 1 percent of the population meets the criteria and donates.
Blood is kept for only 45 days. Blood also loses its effectiveness over time. Children’s Hospital tries to give its patients fresh blood — blood that’s less than 10 days old — because its young patients can be especially vulnerable.
“Blood is a medication that patients receive as their treatment,” said Masri. “But blood is the only medication that money cannot buy. We have to rely on the generosity of healthy individuals.”