Red Cross blood supply remains at low levels

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 26, 2011

American Red Cross blood supplies remain at seriously low levels even after hundreds of area residents responded to the national appeal for blood donors.

Blood products are going out to area hospitals just as quickly as donations are coming in, the Red Cross said today.

In addition, the massive heat wave encompassing much of the country is hurting blood collections at a time when the Red Cross has been working to rebuild its inventories to adequate levels. The triple-digit temperatures have made it extremely difficult to recruit sufficient numbers of donors to go out and give blood.

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Furthermore, heat-related issues across the country have forced the Red Cross to cancel blood drives or close them early, resulting in the cancellation of hundreds of scheduled blood donations. Some blood drives in the 100-county Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region were also impacted with either cancellations or lower than expected donor response due to the heat wave.

“The Red Cross is grateful to everyone who has come forward to give blood in response to this appeal, but we still need donors to make appointments in the coming days and weeks to help us ensure that all patient blood needs can be met,” said John Hagins, CEO, Greater Alleghenies Region.

“We carefully monitor blood supplies, sometimes on an hourly basis, in the hope that there will never be a point where surgeries need to be cancelled,” said John Nobiletti, MD, PhD, Medical Director, Greater Alleghenies Region. “However, there is always the chance that a physician could opt to postpone elective surgery when the blood supply dips too low, or in a worst case scenario, have to forego a procedure such as a lifesaving organ transplant because of a shortage of blood.”

The Red Cross offers some tips to donors during summer:

• Those donating blood during this period of extreme heat should be sure to drink plenty of fluids before and after donation to keep hydrated. Avoid tea, coffee, or other beverages with caffeine which dehydrate the body.

• Dress for the heat. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing in layers. Avoid dark colors that absorb the sun’s rays.

• Eat a healthy meal before arriving at the donor center.

The Red Cross Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region provides lifesaving blood to more than 90 hospitals and must have nearly 1,000 people give blood and platelets each weekday to meet hospital demand.

Accident victims, as well as patients with cancer, sickle cell disease, blood disorders and other illnesses receive lifesaving transfusions every day. There is no substitute for blood and volunteer donors are the only source.

Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia), meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height) and are in generally good health may be eligible to give blood. Individuals should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID when they come to donate.

Eligible blood donors are asked to please call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit to find a blood drive and to make an appointment.