The cold wave is now also noticeable in the blood supplies. The first federal states are sounding the alarm because reserves are running low. These are urgently needed, not only for accident victims. Why donations are so important – and how you can become a donor yourself.

Blood donation services and doctors warn of bottlenecks in the supply of blood to patients. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, there is currently a shortage of hundreds of donors every day due to the many cases of illness in the population. According to the DRK Blood Donation Service West, it only has as many blood supplies in stock as the hospitals use for their patients in a day – for example during operations, in cancer therapy or for accident victims.

With this stock, an “absolutely red line” has been reached, warns Stephan David Küpper from the DRK Blood Donation Service West in Ratingen. Actually, canned food should be in stock for five days. “The sick wave creates an emergency when it comes to donating blood.”

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In addition to the current bottleneck, a general decline in the willingness to donate is also worrying the experts. According to the DRK, only three percent of the population capable of donating actually donate blood. In the cities there are still significantly fewer than in the country. This further exacerbates the situation in the North Rhine-Westphalian metropolitan areas. University hospitals in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt also warn of bottlenecks and call for blood donations.

“In the future, we will have such shortages of blood products much more frequently,” says Peter Horn, Director of the Institute for Transfusion Medicine at Essen University Hospital. If the shortage should become too great, non-essential operations would have to be postponed as a first step. In the worst case, however, it could also happen “that we are no longer able to supply in the event of a major disaster”.

Statistically, according to the private blood donation service Haema AG, every second German is dependent on a blood donation or medication made from blood at least once in their life. So it’s not just accident victims who are affected. They are also indispensable for certain diseases, such as cancer patients or people with certain immune diseases, as the German Red Cross explains.

In addition to being given directly to the patient via transfusion, blood components and blood plasma are also required for the production of medicines and processed accordingly.

Appointments to donate blood are organized locally. For example, you can register for certain postcodes on the German Red Cross website. You will then receive a notification when another blood drive takes place there.

Some of the services require advance notification, but you can sometimes appear spontaneously.

Generally, people over the age of 18 and weighing over 50 kilograms can donate blood. Donations are then possible up to the age of 68.

However, there are certain pre-existing conditions where blood donations are excluded. These include, among other things:

Drug use or misuse of medication also excludes blood donation.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also wants to end discrimination against homosexual men when donating blood. So far, they are only allowed to donate blood if they have not had sex for four months. For all others, this four-month ban only applies to “frequently changing partners”. The Federal Minister of Health now wants to eliminate this disadvantage.

If you are unsure whether you are a suitable donor, you can check this in advance on the German Red Cross website. You should also feel fit before donating. To be on the safe side, however, all samples are also examined in the laboratory.

In addition, the doctors check your hemoglobin level before the donation. This indicates whether your body is able to replace the lost blood.

The Federal Center for Health Education lists the following framework conditions for blood donations.

With some blood donation services, you will receive an expense allowance for your donation – for example in the form of money, a meal or a small gift.

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