A Free Way to Tell If You Have COVID-19 Antibodies

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Man removing his mask outdoors
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Millions of us wonder if we’ve been exposed to the coronavirus without knowing it — especially the majority of us who have yet to get the vaccine — and the American Red Cross is offering a free way to find out.

When you donate blood, platelets or plasma, the Red Cross will test your blood for the presence of coronavirus antibodies, which form when the body fights infections such as COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Such testing can tell you whether you have had a coronavirus infection in the past — which in turn can indicate that you have potentially developed at least temporary immunity or resistance to the virus.

As of early May, the Red Cross said it will be testing all donations “for the next few months, and will evaluate if we are able to continue testing for longer.” (Previously, the organization intended to discontinue antibody testing after May 31.)

Donors will receive news about their antibody status about seven to 10 days after they donate.

While a donation can help you get valuable information about your own health, it also can save the lives of others.

Although the pandemic is waning in the U.S., blood centers continue to struggle with shortages. A joint statement issued in April by the Red Cross and two other organizations explained:

“Blood centers nationwide have reported declines in blood collections in recent weeks. Some have reported their lowest donor turnout in more than a year. These trends are concerning, as both patients and blood centers depend on the altruism of donors to ensure that blood is available for life-saving treatments.”

If you would like to donate through the Red Cross, you can schedule an appointment by visiting redcrossblood.org or calling (800) RED-CROSS.

The Red Cross emphasizes that it is testing for antibodies, which indicate a previous infection. It is not testing donors to diagnose any current illness. If you do not feel well, the Red Cross urges you to postpone any donation appointment until you feel better.

If you don’t feel comfortable giving blood, you now can receive antibody testing at some retailers.

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