Since the first volunteer blood donor service opened in 1921, there has been a constant effort to reach out for more blood donors, reported the American Armed Services Blood Program, Falls Church, Virginia.
There is a demand for blood because: a) there is no substitute for human blood; b) new life-saving treatments require blood products; c) blood products cannot be stored indefinitely; d) 40 or more units of blood may be needed for a single trauma victim; e) 8 units of platelets may be required daily for leukemia patients undergoing treatments; f) a pint of blood can sustain a premature infant’s life for two weeks.
Blood donation is a volunteer procedure in which you agree to have blood drawn so that it can be given to someone who needs it, said the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
These are the types of blood donations:
1. Whole blood. This is the most common type of donation, during which about a pint of blood is donated. It is then separated into its components: red cells, plasma, and platelets.
2. Platelets. This blood is obtained with a process called apheresis, in which the donor is hooked up with a machine that collects the platelets, some of the plasma, and then returns the rest of the blood to the donor.
3. Plasma. This can be collected simultaneously with a platelet donation, or it may be collected without collecting platelets during an apheresis donation.
4. Double red cells. This collection is also done using apheresis, although only the red cells are collected.
“Blood donating is safe because new, sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there is no risk in contracting a blood-borne infection,” the Clinic added.
You are eligible to donate blood if you are in good health, and weigh at least 110 pounds, according to the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. Here are other guidelines.
1. Age. You must be at least 17 years of age. There is no upper limit as long as you are healthy.
2. High Blood Pressure. You are eligible as long as your systolic reading (upper number) is below 180, and the diastolic (lower number) is below 100 at the time of donation. Blood pressure medications do not disqualify you.
3. Body Piercing. You should not donate if you have had a tongue, nose, belly button, or genital piercing within the last 12 months. Those with pierced ears can donate.
4. Colds and Flu. If you have a fever, cough, etc., wait until you feel better before donating.
5. Diabetes. This is acceptable as long as the disease is under control, whether you are taking medications or not.
6. Diet. A meal is recommended at least four hours prior to a donation. Drink plenty of water.
7. MSM. Men who have sex with men since 1977 are not eligible. That is the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. This group is at an increased risk of HIV, hepatitis B, and other infections.
8. Tattoos. One-year deferral.
9. Travel. Check with the UCSF Blood Center at 415-353-1809. Recent travel to a restricted area might be a problem.
10. Weight. You must weigh at least 110 pounds, because those weighing less may not tolerate the removal of the required amount of blood.
For those who have a fear of needles, the New York Blood Bank reports that the needle insertion feels like a little pinch. Other than that, most donors feel no discomfort.
There are health benefits for donating blood, reported J. P. Mascaro & Sons, Audubon, Pennsylvania.
1. You have the joy of saving lives.
2. A free health check-up. Before a donation, tests can detect any blood pressure abnormalities or an iron deficiency. Potential problems can be uncovered when the blood is processed.
3. Reduced risk of a heart attack. Regular donations keep iron levels in check, especially in males. High iron stores can thicken blood, which accelerates the oxidative process. Blood inconsistency increases wear and tear on the lining of the arteries and contributes to cardiovascular disease.
4. Burns calories. A donation helps you shed 650 calories.
5. Reduced risk of cancer. High levels of iron have been implicated in some forms of cancer, because the mineral may increase harmful free-radicals in the body.
References: The Armed Services Blood Program, Falls Church, VA; undated. “Blood Donation,” Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN; May 20, 2014. “Blood Donors. Who Can Give Blood?” University of California at San Francisco Medical Center; 2014. “Health Benefits of Donating Blood,” J. P. Mascaro & Sons, Audubon, PA; undated.