EDITORIAL: Giving blood is never out of season

Dec. 26—The season of giving isn't over. Some people's lives depend on that being true.

Like every start to winter, blood donations predictably drop when holidays distract us, people leave the area to vacation or snowbirds flee for warmer places. The U.S. also is seeing more respiratory illnesses such as flu, COVID-19 and RSV, which can decrease the availability of healthy donors, the American Red Cross says.

Blood donors are needed now more than ever.

Luckily, the pool of donors also should be growing with longtime restrictions being lifted in the last month or so. The FDA reversed a 20-year-old ban that affected people who spent time overseas potentially at risk of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, also known as mad cow disease.

The restriction had affected those who spent time in the United Kingdom from 1980-1996, in France and Ireland from 1980-2001, and anyone who went through a blood transfusion in the U.K., France or Ireland from 1980 to present. So if your previous travels restricted you from giving blood, now is your chance to get into the habit once again.

Another positive development on the horizon is likely removal of a restriction that disallows gay men from giving blood if they've had sex in the last three months. The Food and Drug Administration is now considering switching to questionnaires that focus on individual risk, rather than blanket limitations.

The American Medical Association supports the removal of the restriction. AMA President Dr. Jack Resneck Jr. told CNN that the association has urged the FDA to use rational, scientifically based deferral periods for donation of blood, corneas and other tissues that are fairly and consistently applied to donors according to their individual risk.

Updating donation guidelines to be more in line with medical advances will be a win-win for keeping blood supplies stocked. More people will be able to donate and more people can then receive life-saving blood.

Although lots of activities slow down this time of year, plenty of upcoming bloodmobiles are scheduled in this region to give donors an opportunity to roll up their sleeves. Download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-733-2767 to find a donation site and make an appointment.