KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Here's something you might not know: about 38 percent of the population can donate blood. However, only five to seven percent does so on a regular basis according to Marsh Regional Blood Center.
But what's really startling is that the number of donors drops every time cold and flu season strikes.
It's no surprise if you're coughing, sniffling, or sneezing, it's a bad idea to give blood. That's because blood centers do not want to take a risk and compromise the immune system of someone that's already vulnerable.
There's a list of questions Dakota Parsons has to answer before he can donate blood, but the most important is 'Are you healthy?' That's a yes on his checklist and it's exactly why he's donating. "I know that when I'm sick, people try their best to help me. So I want to repay the favor for them," he explained.
But there's a problem every time cold and flu season strikes. "Our donor base drops because folks are not able to donate if they're feeling poorly or if on an antibiotic," said Don Campbell with Marsh Regional Blood Center.
News 5 learned to meet the needs in our region, Marsh needs 150 units donated every day. But if there's a drop by 10 percent for five days that's a loss of about 65 donors in total, which is hard to make up. "A lot of our team donates in the process and we partner with other blood centers if we can't collect it ourselves. Some actually do better than we are and are willing to ship it to us," added Campbell.
Even platelet supplies hit drastically low levels during cold and flu season as well. "Platelet donations, it only has a five-day shelf life, so we lose a lot of those donors and 70 percent of what we collect there goes into cancer patients," said Campbell.
Which is why the blood center is calling on anyone that's healthy to be a donor and give the gift of life.
If you donate blood and feel healthy today, but tomorrow you've got a scratchy throat and the first signs of a cold, don't fret. You can use your donation details card and call with your unit number to have your donation pulled off the shelf by the blood center.