What To Expect When Donating Blood

Blood circulates throughout the entire body and helps maintain life. Oxygen, nutrients, heat, hormones, and electrolytes are transported to body tissues by the blood. It is also responsible for carrying waste and carbon dioxide away from tissues. Blood is comprised of platelets, plasma, white blood cells, and red blood cells. In the United States, more than twenty million transfusions of donated blood are given every year. Since blood cannot be stored for a long time, an active, large donor pool is required to maintain a sufficient blood supply for transfusions.

Many patients need blood transfusions as a treatment for anemia. Donated blood is also used as a kidney disease treatment. Many cancer patients will require blood transfusions as part of their treatment for cancer. Some women giving birth will need some donated blood. It is also a common part of many surgeries, and surgery for severe injuries, including trauma from a car accident, is quite common. Of course, potential donors must understand all aspects of blood donation beforehand.

Importance Of Donating Blood

Dreamstime

In the United States, only thirty-seven percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, and less than ten percent of eligible donors choose to donate. Blood cannot be manufactured, which means that donation is the only method of providing blood that can be used in transfusions for patients in need. On average, someone in the United States will need a blood transfusion every two seconds. The Red Cross states that someone will require platelets approximately every fifteen seconds. A single donation could save the lives of up to three individuals. In addition, blood supply does not last for too long, which is why donating blood regularly is vital. Reports show that platelets must be used within five days of donation and red blood cells within forty-two days.

Get more information on the health benefits of donating blood next.

Health Benefits Of Donating Blood

Dreamstime

In addition to saving lives and helping the community, blood donation also benefits the donor's health. Repeated donations can improve the way blood flows through vessels. In addition, studies suggest that blood donors may have a significant reduction in their risk of a heart attack. Research also indicates that donors could have a lower risk of stroke and certain types of cancer. Furthermore, they tend to require fewer hospitalizations and have shorter hospital stays than non-donors. Donors also benefit from reduced stress and an overall improvement in their emotional well-being. It is worth noting that before every donation, an individual's blood is screened for potential diseases, including West Nile virus, hepatitis, and human immunodeficiency virus. Catching conditions early helps patients manage their symptoms effectively.

Uncover the details on the criteria for donating next.

Criteria For Donation

Dreamstime

Individuals must be at least sixteen years old and weigh a minimum of 110 pounds to donate blood. Whole blood donations can only be made once every fifty-six days. Patients must be at least seventeen years old for platelet, plasma, and double red cell donations. Female patients who wish to make a double red cell donation must be at least nineteen years old and have a minimum height of sixty-five inches. They must also weigh at least 150 pounds. 

In addition to these minimum requirements, donors of all blood products must be in good health. Patients with cold or flu symptoms should reschedule their donation after their symptoms resolve. Individuals also have to delay donation if they have had a recent piercing or tattoo done. Typically, they must wait at least six months, particularly for a tattoo. Patients who have recently had dental work must wait at least twenty-four hours if the work was minor. Any major dental work means they must wait thirty days. Some patients who were traveling recently will have to delay their donation. This applies if they went to any countries with a significant risk of mosquito-borne infections, including malaria and Zika virus.

Learn more about who cannot donate blood next.

Who Cannot Donate Blood

Dreamstime

Individuals with anemia are not allowed to donate. Patients with cardiovascular conditions, hypertension, diabetes, or cancer may not be able to donate. These cases will be assessed on an individual basis. The use of certain anticoagulants could make an individual ineligible to donate. In addition, hemoglobin is vital when determining who cannot donate blood. Women cannot donate if their hemoglobin is less than twelve grams per deciliter, and men cannot donate if theirs is less than thirteen grams per deciliter. This level is important, as hemoglobin is where the body holds approximately seventy percent of its iron. Certain behaviors make individuals ineligible to donate blood. They cannot donate at any time if they have tested postive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or injected recreational drugs. 

Learn about what individuals should do before donating next.

What To Do Before Donating

Dreamstime

Individuals who are going to donate blood should bring photo identification such as a driver's license, passport, or blood donor card with them to the donation center. Donors will also need to bring a list of their current medications, including over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements. Donors are encouraged to eat iron-rich foods such as beans, spinach, red meat, and fortified cereals in advance of their appointment. They may also wish to take iron supplements if their doctor advises them to do so. This will help make the donation process as easy and comfortable as possible. Drinking extra fluids in the days leading up to donation is recommended. Patients are encouraged to get sufficient sleep the night before their appointment. Those who are planning to donate platelets should not use acetylsalicylic acid in the two days before their donation. 

All donors should wear comfortable clothing with loose sleeves that can be rolled up above the elbow. Immediately before donation, potential donors will have their blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and hemoglobin levels measured to ensure it is safe for them to donate. Individuals must have a pulse rate of less than one hundred and a blood pressure of less than 180/100 at this exam to be cleared for donation.

Read about what happens while donating blood next.

What Happens While Donating Blood

Dreamstime

The whole blood donation process typically takes around ten minutes. The patient will be reclining or lying down during the donation. First, a staff member will locate a suitable vein in one of the patient's arms. After cleaning the skin, they will insert a needle into the patient's vein. The needle is connected to a tube and a bag that collects the blood. When one pint of blood has been collected, the staff member will withdraw the needle and place a bandage over the site. Other types of blood donations, including platelet donations, require the use of an apheresis machine. These donations can take between ninety to 120 minutes. Thanks to new technology, donations completed with an apheresis machine can now be done with a single needle in one arm. 

Platelet donors can sometimes start to feel cold during their donation due to the anticoagulant used for the procedure, which must be kept at room temperature. To counteract this, donation centers usually provide blankets and heating pads for donors. Some platelet donors may also experience a tingling sensation on their lips during donation. If this occurs, the donation can be paused for a short period. Donors of any type of blood product could notice slight bruising at the needle site.

Learn about the protocol for after a donation is made next.

Protocol For After Making A Donation

Dreamstime

After completing a blood donation, donors will be asked to remain at the donation center for ten to fifteen minutes. Salty snacks, cookies, and juices will be provided, and patients can continue their normal routine after leaving the center. No alcohol should be consumed in the twenty-four hours after donation. Patients are encouraged to drink an extra thirty-two ounces of water during this time. The bandage over the needle site needs to remain in place for several hours after the donation. Patients should clean the area around the bandage with soap and water to prevent a skin rash. If the needle site starts to bleed, patients should apply firm, continuous pressure to the area for at least five to ten minutes and elevate their arm. Patients should refrain from heavy lifting or vigorous physical activity for the rest of the day after their donation.

Continue reading to discover appropriate donation schedules next.

Donation Schedules

Dreamstime

Many individuals who choose to donate blood often become regular blood donors. However, beginners may not know the proper donation schedules. Individuals who donate whole blood must wait at least eight weeks between each donation. Those who are donating platelets can do so more often. Specifically, an individual can donate platelets every seven days up to a maximum of twenty-four times a year. Of course, patients must wait at least a week after donating platelets to donate whole blood and vice versa. Some reports indicate that individuals who are autologous donors, meaning they are giving blood for themselves, adhere to different regulations. Patients should discuss this with their doctor. Finally, patients must follow a donation schedule of waiting 112 days when they do an automated double red cell collection.