Written by Erica Robbins

Did you know that you can save a car accident victim, a burn patient and a cancer patient from one pint of your blood?

In the U.S., someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds, and 95 percent all Americans will need a blood transfusion at some point in their lives. You may not realize this, but your blood has the capability to save lives. Blood transfusions are necessary when responding to traumatic accidents or disasters, large surgeries, and to cure illnesses.

Many people are not aware of the donor’s health benefits following a donation. From a health standpoint, donating blood is a way to reduce the risk of heart attacks and cancer. It is also beneficial for weight watchers, as 650 calories are burned with every pint donated.

Types of Blood Donations

There are multiple types of blood donation by which a donor can contribute to the society.

  • Whole Blood Donation – This is a standard type of blood donation in which the donor gives one pint of blood. After the blood is collected, it is separated into several components, like red blood cells, plasma and platelets.
  • Apheresis Platelet Donation – This is a selective blood donation procedure where only the platelet or white blood cells are collected via a cell separating machine. The rest of the components of the blood are returned to the donor during the donation.
  • Double Red Cell Donation– This automated blood donation technique collects only the red blood cells from the donor’s blood, and returns the remaining components to the donor.

Safety Precautions for Blood Donations

Most people do not consider donating blood as they are concerned about the safety practices used while collecting blood from the donor. Most individuals claim they are afraid to get AIDS or they are afraid of needles and scared of getting any blood infections. However, several screening and safety practices are observed during the collection of blood.

Every donor completes a health history questionnaire and screening interview to identify cases that carry a risk of blood borne diseases. Before you begin donating, a phlebotomist will collect blood samples to ensure your blood is safe for donation. Blood donation in the U.S is done voluntarily. People who donate their blood voluntarily purely out of altruism are safe donors as they are self-aware of their unsuitability to serve as blood donors where there may be slightest risk of causing health damage for blood recipients.

Blood Donation Procedures

Donating blood is safe and simple, but there are slight differences in the donation process depending upon the type of donation. After the completion of medical
examination and history taking, the questionnaire is discussed and explained in more detail. All this information is kept confidential and private. The donor is offered refreshing drinks and light snacks before donating blood. You are asked to in a special comfy chair and a needle is inserted in your vein. It takes 10 minutes to draw a pint of blood.

Blood Donation Tips

Many of you have probably heard some horror stories associated with blood donations. The most common side effect of donating is fainting. Most people will experience this side effect if their blood pressure or blood sugar level drops significantly. The following tips will
help you avoid this side effect:

  • Boost your iron levels. In order to donate you must have a specific haemoglobin level. By eating iron-rich foods such as spinach, fish, and poultry, you can avoid being deferred for donation.
  • Drink A LOT of fluids, preferably water. Boosting your fluid intake at least 24 hours prior to donation decreases your risk of fainting. It is also important to drink plenty of water following your donation.
  • Get plenty of rest. Sleeping a full 8 hours before donation can bring your stress levels down and your body will have enough energy to replenish the blood that was donated.

Donating blood can be a scary concept to some people, but it is a necessity. If 95% of people receive a blood transfusion in their life time, then odds are that you might personally receive one. I was 16 years old when I first donated and have been ever since. It is comforting to know that others continuously give, but we always need more donors. Find a local blood drive and begin saving lives today!