How many people can say they've saved a life? How about multiple lives? Donating blood is a great opportunity to give back to your community in a very real way. Unfortunately, 2022 has seen the worst blood shortage in over a decade. With the national blood crisis at hand, doctors are forced to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions.
If you've considered donating blood in the past but still have questions about the process, we're here to help! Read through our frequently asked questions to pull back the curtain and see how easy and rewarding donating blood can be.
Is it safe to give blood?
Yes, donating blood is safe. The supplies used to collect blood are sterile and single-use. By ensuring a clean and sterile process, you and the recipient are protected from bacteria and potential infection.
Is it safe to receive blood?
The blood supply is safe. Blood donor eligibility standards, individual donor screening, laboratory testing and donor record checks are in place to help ensure the safety of blood transfusions.
How does the blood donation process work?
From the time you arrive until the time you leave, the entire blood donation process takes about an hour and 15 minutes. The steps in the process include:
- Registration. Complete the donor registration, which includes information such as your name, address, phone number and donor ID number (if you have one). Make sure to bring a driver's license or two other forms of ID as part of the registration process.
- Health history and quick screening. Answer questions in a private and confidential interview about your health and travel history. Prepare for evaluations of your temperature, hemoglobin, blood pressure and pulse.
- Donation. Medical professionals will cleanse an area on your arm; insert a brand-new, sterile needle for the blood draw; and collect a pint of blood. A whole blood donation takes about eight to 10 minutes. If you are donating platelets, red cells or plasma by apheresis, the collection can take up to 2 hours.
- Refreshments and farewell. Spend a few minutes with complimentary refreshments to allow your body time to adjust. Enjoy the rest of your day knowing that you helped save lives!
Will it hurt to get my blood drawn?
Only for a moment. Pinch the soft underside of your arm. That pinch is often compared to what you'll feel when the needle is inserted.
How long does it take to give blood?
The entire process takes about one hour and 15 minutes. After donor screening, the physical donation of a pint of blood only takes eight to 10 minutes.
How long will it take to replenish the blood I donate?
The plasma from your donation is replaced within roughly 24 hours. Red cells need four to six weeks for complete replacement, which is why at least eight weeks are required between whole blood donations.
Who can donate blood?
In most states, donors must be age 17 or older, while some states allow donation by 16-year-olds with parental consent. Donors must also weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Additional eligibility criteria may apply.
What is the universal blood type?
Donors with type O negative blood can give blood to any other blood type. Only 8% of the US population has O negative blood. Every blood type is essential. Don’t know your blood type? No problem! Blood typing is part of the donation process!
Can I donate blood if I'm taking medications?
Many medications are acceptable, so don't assume you are ineligible without inquiring. Consult with your physician to find out.
How often can I give blood?
You can donate whole blood every 8 weeks (56 days). Platelets (apheresis donation), on the other hand, can be donated as many as two times in a 7-day period, or up to 24 times in a rolling 12 month period.
What is a double red cell donation?
Double red cell donations are performed using an apheresis machine, allowing you to donate two pints of red cells as opposed to one.
What is the difference between blood donation and plasma donation?
When you donate whole blood, it goes straight into a collection bag and is later separated in a lab. When you donate plasma, the blood that's drawn from your arm goes through a special machine to separate the different parts of your blood. While whole blood donations, the process is often quick. Plasma donations, on the other hand, can happen more frequently but the process can take up to an hour and 30 minutes.
With a significant decline in national blood donations, it's more important than ever to make your mark. Every single donation can help save or improve the lives of at least three people in your community. So if you've always wanted to make a big difference, now's your chance. Find a blood drive near you.
This article first appeared in the March 2022 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.