Blood donation is a voluntary procedure. You agree to have blood drawn so that it can be given to someone who needs a blood transfusion. Millions of people need blood transfusions each year. Some may need blood during surgery. Others depend on it after an accident or because they have a disease that requires blood components. Blood donation makes all of this possible.
There are several types of blood donation:
- Whole blood. This is the most common type of blood donation, during which approximately a pint of whole blood is donated. The blood is then separated into its components — red cells, plasma, platelets.
- Platelets. This type of donation uses a process called apheresis. During apheresis, the donor is hooked up to a machine that collects the platelets and some of the plasma, and then returns the rest of the blood to the donor.
- Plasma. Plasma may be collected simultaneously with a platelet donation, or it may be collected without collecting platelets during an apheresis donation.
- Double red cells. Double red cell donation is also done using apheresis. In this case, only the red cells are collected.
Blood donation is safe. New, sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there’s no risk of contracting a bloodborne infection by donating blood.
If you’re a healthy adult, you can usually donate a pint of blood without endangering your health. Within 24 hours of a blood donation, your body replaces the lost fluids. And after several weeks, your body replaces the lost red blood cells.
HOW YOU PREPARE
To be eligible to donate whole blood, platelets or plasma, you must be:
- In good health.
- At least 17 years old — the minimum age varies by state, with some states allowing 16-year-olds to donate with parent permission; there’s no upper age limit.
- At least 110 pounds.
- Able to pass the physical and health history assessments.
The eligibility requirements are slightly different for double red cell donation. Check with your local donor center for specifics.
Get plenty of sleep the night before you plan to donate. Eat a healthy meal before your donation. Avoid fatty foods, such as hamburgers, fries or ice cream before donating. Tests for infections done on all donated blood can be affected by fats that appear in your blood for several hours after eating fatty foods. Drink an extra 16 ounces (473 milliliters) of water and other fluids before the donation.
If you are a platelet donor, remember that you must not take aspirin for two days prior to donating. Otherwise, you can take your normal medications as prescribed.
WHY SHOULD I DONATE BLOOD?
Safe blood saves lives and improves health.
Blood transfusion is needed for:
- women with complications of pregnancy, such as ectopic pregnancies and haemorrhage before, during or after childbirth;
- children with severe anaemia often resulting from malaria or malnutrition;
- people with severe trauma following accidents; and
- many surgical and cancer patients.
It is also needed for regular transfusions for people with conditions such as thalassaemia and sickle cell disease and is used to make products such as clotting factors for people with haemophilia.
There is a constant need for regular blood supply because blood can be stored for only a limited time before use. Regular blood donations by a sufficient number of healthy people is needed to ensure that safe blood will be available whenever and wherever it is needed.
Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person — the gift of life. A decision to donate your blood can save a life, or even several if your blood is separated into its components — red cells, platelets and plasma — which can be used individually for patients with specific conditions.
BENEFITS OF DONATING BLOOD
A spider bite might not transform you into a superhero, but a small needle prick and a little of your time sure can. Yes, by donating blood you’ll be saving up to three human lives each time. And here is even more awesome news: not only is donating blood extremely beneficial to those on the receiving end, it also has proven benefits to the person donating blood. Here are some of the benefits you gain for you humanitarian efforts.
1. The Joy of Saving Human Lives
It is such a wonderful feeling being able to help doctors save human lives. There are no perfect substitutes for human blood. The blood you donate is divided into various components according to the needs of patients. Each component can be used by different recipients for various purposes. Many newborn babies may benefit from a single blood donor as their blood requirements are smaller. Every time you donate blood, you can help up to 3 or 4 individual recipients. Be a hero by donating blood.
2. Free Health Check-up
You can donate blood only if you are fit enough to do so. Before every blood donation process, a series of health check-ups are performed on the donor totally free of cost. This will be of great benefit to you. For example, you will come to know of any blood pressure abnormalities. That will help diagnose some of the indolent diseases at the early stage before they get flared up and present with multiple medical problems. Further, after the blood is donated, the blood and blood products that are derived from them are screened for certain infections. You can choose to be informed if they find any abnormality in those screening tests. Frequent blood donations are good free health check-ups that will help you stay healthy. Here is an interesting story of how blood donation saved a grandmother’s life.
3. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
Regular blood donations help to keep the levels of iron in the body in check, especially in males. This has shown to reduce heart disease. Though iron is an essential element for the proper functioning of the body, excessive iron build up can result in excessive oxidative damage. Oxidative damage is the major culprit implicated in accelerated ageing, heart attacks, strokes etc. You can read more of the scientific information on the American Journal of Epidemiology.
4. burns calories
One time blood donation helps you shed 650 Kcal. This can aid you in your body weight control measures. However, blood can be donated safely once in two or three months and not more frequently. This will depend on your health status and your blood hemoglobin and iron levels.
5. Reduces the Risk of Cancer
High levels of iron have been implicated in cancer. Theoretically, donating blood frequently will reduce the risk of cancers. More research is going on to find strong evidence on this one. However, the old myth that blood donations may lead to cancer has been put to the grave.