Heat and humidity are causing most of the country east of the Rocky Mountains to swelter. During a heat wave, the American Red Cross often sees an even bigger decline in the number of blood donors than in a typical summer.
While the heat is unlikely to change the amount of blood needed each day, the challenge is that the weather is too hot to encourage people to leave their air-conditioned homes and businesses to donate blood. Many donors are busy or traveling, school is out of session and donations have dropped dramatically.
In May and June, while demand for blood products remained steady, donations were at the lowest level the Red Cross has seen during this timeframe in over a dozen years.
The Red Cross needs blood donors now more than ever. Donating blood is a safe process, even when it’s hot outside. There are steps you can take to make sure you’re prepared.
“During extreme heat waves, it is especially important to be well hydrated before and after a blood donation. It is also imperative to avoid heat exposure after a donation,” stated Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross.
All types are needed, but especially type O negative. Anyone interested in donating blood should call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit www.redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment.
Other steps people can take for overall safety during a heat wave include:
- Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
- Eat small meals and eat more often.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
- Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.
- Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
- Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
- Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Ensure they have water and a shady place to rest.
More information on what to do during a heat wave can be found in the Preparedness section.