Importance of Blood Donations

Have you considered donating blood, but haven’t taken the leap and actually donated? If so, you aren’t alone. Only about 3% of eligible people donate blood on a yearly basis. The COVID-19 pandemic only decreased donations as blood drives were canceled and those who donated on a regular basis stopped doing so.

In a recent joint statement from the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies, American Blood Centers, and the American Red Cross,  the supply of blood is indicated as critically low. “The nation’s blood supply remains at one of its lowest levels in recent years. In recent weeks, blood centers across the country have reported less than a one-day’s supply of blood of certain critical blood types—a dangerously low level. If the nation’s blood supply does not stabilize soon, life-saving blood may not be available for some patients when it is needed.”

The nationwide shortage means that hospitals must allocate blood for the patients who need it most urgently. Cancer patients, people with traumatic injuries, those undergoing surgery, and those with chronic illnesses rely on the generosity of blood donations in order to survive. When you donate blood, it can be used as-is, or divided into its components –  red cells, platelets, and plasma. These blood components can be used individually depending on the patient’s condition. 

Healthy people between the ages of 17 and 65 (and older in some cases) are eligible to donate blood and can give blood at least twice per year. In some cases, people can donate every 56 days. Your local donation center can tell you how frequently you can give blood.

The process is very simple and only takes about 10 minutes to complete. Once you arrive at the donation center, you will either sit in a special chair or you can lie down on a bed. A trained healthcare worker will clean an area inside one of your elbows with an antiseptic solution before inserting a sterile needle into your vein. The blood will flow into a blood collection bag. Once the blood is collected (about one pint) you’ll rest for about 10-15 minutes and be given some refreshments. After this, you can return to your normal activities. However, you should avoid strenuous activities for the rest of the day and drink plenty of fluids over the next 24 hours. 

Your body will replace the blood volume (plasma) within 48 hours. It will take four to eight weeks for your body to completely replace the red blood cells you donated.

We said earlier that healthy adults can donate blood. This is because if you are unhealthy, the blood can transmit infections to patients who receive blood transfusions. Do not donate blood if you have a sexually transmitted disease such as HIV or syphilis. If you have ever injected recreational, non-medicinal drugs, you are ineligible to donate. If you have recently had a tattoo, skin scarification, or ear or body piercing – your local blood service can tell you how long you must wait before giving blood. If you aren’t feeling well, are anemic, pregnant, or have been pregnant within the last year, or are breastfeeding, are taking certain medications such as antibiotics, or have certain medical conditions, you should not donate blood. 

The question over the past year is can people who’ve received the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine donate blood. The short answer is yes. Recipients of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines that do not contain live viruses may donate blood after seven days if they feel well. Recipients of live virus vaccines should wait four weeks before donating blood.

After donating, your blood will be tested for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, and HTLV (human T-lymphotropic virus), which can cause a blood or nerve disease.

Now is the time to take action and donate blood, as you are able. Help us in keeping our community healthy, Hampstead!