The Medical Minute: The Need for Blood Doesn’t Take the Summer Off

By Mark Stout, P.A.C.

Summer is a time when everyone thinks about picnics, vacations and going to the pool, but going to the blood bank and donating a pint is not usually high on the list of things to do. Still, it’s important to remember that the need for blood remains constant throughout the year. Accidents, surgeries and other medical problems that require blood products to save lives don’t take a summer break.

Despite an increase in donations among some population groups, blood donor centers across the country are looking to generate awareness of the need for blood products among younger generations of donors. This is particularly important as many regular donors belonging to the “Greatest Generation” — those born during the Great Depression and who fought World War II — who have provided blood products for so many years, are now unable to continue due to illness or age.

Blood donation for the Greatest Generation was a civic duty similar to voting and saving tin and steel for the war effort. Baby Boomers have continued the tradition of donating but not at the same levels as their parents. Boomers’ children, known as Gen Xer’s, have been less likely to donate. A new source of donors is starting to appear with the generation known as the Millennials, as they reach the age of 16 or 17 and begin what medical professionals hope will be a lifetime of public service with their first donation.

In addition to the aging donor population, the need for strict standards and deferrals for individuals who have had recent tattoos or piercings or who have recently traveled to exotic countries has decreased the potential pool of donors overall. Due to the need for our blood supply to remain safe for the recipients of blood products, donor centers will continue to need more and more new donors to keep up with the increased blood needs of the community.

If your son or daughter comes to you and asks for your parental consent to donate, please support their desire to support the community and know that their safety will be a top concern of the donor center. If you have never donated before, or you haven’t donated recently, please call Penn State Hershey Medical Center’s Blood donor center, at 717-531-8232, or local blood banks such as the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank, at 800-771-0059.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, but please consider adding an appointment to donate blood to your list of things to do before fall so others can look forward to more birthdays and more summer fun, too.

Mark Stout, P.A.C., is a physician assistant at Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute.

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