Blood donation is a voluntary procedure that is indispensable to healthcare. Since there is no viable substitution for human blood, all transfusions use blood from a donor. The best medical laboratory in the world contributes to saving millions of lives each year in both routine and emergencies with the help of blood donations. Many patients die or suffer unnecessarily due to a lack of access to safe blood transfusion.
There are different types of blood donations. Each type helps meet different medical needs
Whole blood donation
Whole blood donation is the most common type of blood donation. During every donation, you donate about half a liter of whole blood. The blood is then separated into its components – red cells, plasma and platelets in some cases.
Also called pheresis, this is a procedure in which blood is collected, the required part of the blood such as platelets or white blood cells is taken out, and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor.
Plateletpheresis, commonly called platelet donation, collects only platelets. Platelets are used to help stop bleeding by clumping and forming plugs in blood vessels (clotting). They are usually given to patients who have clotting problems or cancer and people who need organ transplants or major surgeries.
Double red cell donation lets you donate a concentrated amount of red blood cells. The function of red blood cells is to deliver oxygen to your organs and tissues. Donated red blood cells are usually given to people with severe blood loss, like after injuries or accidents, and people with sickle cell anemia.
Plasmapheresis or plasma donation collects plasma – the liquid portion of the blood. Plasma helps blood clot and contains antibodies that help off infections. Plasma is commonly given to people in emergency and trauma situations to help stop bleeding.
Eligibility criteria for blood donation
The eligibility criteria for blood donation vary from country to country. But almost anyone who is healthy and does not have an infection that can be transmitted through their blood can donate blood. In most places, people between the age of 17 and 65 are eligible to give blood. But in some countries, donations are accepted from people from the age of 16 and extend the upper age limit beyond 65 years.
If you are healthy, you can give blood up to twice a year.
Blood donation benefits
Blood donation is good for the health of the donor. It not only enables patients to live longer and healthier but also benefits donors’ mental and physical health. Here are some other blood donation benefits for the donor.
Timely blood donations aid healthy individuals in weight loss and enhance endurance. But under no circumstances should it be used as a weight loss regimen.
Frequent blood donation revitalizes your overall system. When a person undergoes voluntary blood donation or dialysis, the organs responsible for synthesizing and eliminating erythrocytes or red blood cells are rejuvenated. Blood plasma revitalization also aids in the increase of leukocytes, which are immune cells that protect against numerous illnesses.
Reduces the risk of heart disease
Routine blood donation reduces additional iron deposits in the blood that frequently restricts blood arteries. High amounts of iron in the blood increase the risk of a heart attack and leads to a disease known as hemochromatosis (iron overload). Blood donation keeps iron levels in check.
Demotes the possibility of cancer
The excessive accumulation of iron in the blood is a risk of cancer. Blood donations reduce this risk.
Boosts mental health
Apart from the number of physical health benefits, blood donation also contributes to the donor’s mental health. Donating blood gives you the satisfaction that someone somewhere will receive much-needed assistance.
Does it hurt to give blood?
There will be a pinch of the needle as it is inserted, and pressure on your arm from the tourniquet while you donate. Apart from that it does not hurt. But you may experience some dizziness or lightheadedness during or after your donation.
What to do after donating blood
After donating blood, you will be asked to sit in an observation area and have a light snack and some water. After 15 minutes, you can leave. Make sure to
- Drink extra fluids
- Avoid strenuous activities for about five hours
- If you feel lightheaded, lie down with your feet up until the feeling passes
- Keep your bandage on and dry for the next five hours
- If you are still bleeding after removing the bandage, put pressure and raise your hand, until the bleeding stops
- If bruising occurs, apply a cold pack
- Consider an iron-rich food to replace the iron lost
- Connect the blood donor center, or your clinical hematologist if you forget to report any important health information, have signs and symptoms of illnesses like fever right after blood donation, or are diagnosed with Covid-19 within 48 hours after donating blood.