Should You Give Blood?

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Why Should You Give BloodThe season for giving has ended—or has it? January is the month of New Year’s resolutions. Some resolve to lose weight, others may vow to end smoking habits, while others simply resolve to give more of themselves.

But have you considered resolving to donate blood more often? The excuses are plentiful, but there are many better reasons why you need to seriously consider regularly donating your blood.

January Is National Blood Donor Month

January has been National Blood Donor Month since 1970. The AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks) and the American Red Cross encourage and honor blood donors of all types—A, B, AB, and O, whether you are positive or negative. Everyone is grateful for the contributions. Generally speaking, anyone who is 16 years of age or older and weighs 110 pounds or more can donate blood.

Blood donations can be given at any time during the year; however, blood drives are especially important in the winter. Blood drives often get cancelled or postponed after snowstorms, and cold and flu season also interferes with blood donation appointments. Blood donations are important, and yet only approximately five percent of Americans donate blood on a yearly basis. Why? Well, there are three common reasons…

Three Reasons People Don’t Donate Blood

1. You Don’t Have Time

This is a common excuse, especially as we get back into the work grind and get caught up in our daily to-do lists. However, donating blood takes only 10 to 12 minutes. In total, you probably give just 45 minutes to an hour of your time for your blood donation, which isn’t too heavy of a commitment when you consider those 45 minutes could help save up to three lives.

2. You Don’t Know Your Blood Type

You’ll find out your blood type when you donate, so you don’t have to be aware of what you are before you donate. While O-negative is the most universal blood available, any blood is acceptable and desired for donation. AB-negative and B-negative are the two rarest blood types, followed by AB-positive, A-negative, O-negative, B-positive, and A-positive. O-positive is the most common blood type.

Knowing your blood type can be a bonus, too, as it can help out medical professionals if you require a blood transfusion. Finally, at times, there may be a greater need for a certain blood type; the American Red Cross may put out an announcement at such a time, calling for more donors with a specific blood type. Knowing what your blood type is can help fill this demand and save lives—especially if you’re O-negative.

3. You Are Afraid

Some people may be scared to give blood if it is a new experience, or they may also fear needles. But try to remind yourself that the fear is only temporary. After a slight pinch, the pain goes away, while your blood is drawn; a second slight pinch and your donation is done. You will regain your energy shortly after your contribution, especially if you consume juice or the cookies often provided by blood banks for donors. Remember, too, that your single donation can save up to three lives; that’s worth a little pain, right?

Finally, the volunteers are trained professionals who have your health and safety in mind; if it’s not safe for you to donate or you start to faint when your blood is drawn, they’re there to protect your health. They’ll never allow you to donate blood if it is not safe for you.

Why Donate Blood?

People may not donate blood—that red liquid that amounts to four to six liters inside of you—because they don’t know why it is necessary. That’s probably a good reason why people fail to donate, but blood can save lives. Your blood can be used for several transfusable blood products, such as plasma, platelets, red cells, and cryoprecipitate.

Here are a few ways your donation could be put to good use through blood transfusions:

  • Pregnancy complications, during and after giving birth—a premature infant uses a single pint of blood to sustain life for two weeks
  • Severe trauma from accidents—a patient could require 40 units or more of blood
  • Children with acute anemia who require blood transfusions to boost hemoglobin levels
  • Cancer and surgery patients—leukemia patients require eight units of blood daily when undergoing treatment
  • Patients with sickle cell disease and thalassemia to prevent complications or stroke
  • Clotting treatments to stop bleeding in hemophilia patients

When and Where to Donate Blood

There is always a heavy need for blood, and red blood cells must be used 35 to 42 days after the donation is made. Red blood cells can be donated every 56 days (five times a year), and your body contains about 10 pints of blood.

Blood donation drives can be found at colleges, high schools, places of worship, military installations, companies, and community organizations. To find out where and when you can donate blood, visit the American Red Cross web site (www.redcrossblood.org) or call 1-800-RED-CROSS for additional information about blood donation.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“ASBP: About Blood – Why blood and donors are so important,” The Armed Services Blood Program web site; http://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/Donors/about_blood.aspx, last accessed January 13, 2015.
Boyle, B., “The Importance of Donating Blood,” Huffington Post web site, February 8, 2013; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-boyle/blood-donation-facts_b_2638916.html.
“Donating Blood,” Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank web site; http://www.cpbb.org/donorinfo.html, last accessed January 13, 2015.
Gillespie, T.W., et al., “Blood donors and factors impacting the blood donation decision,” Transfusion Medicine Reviews April 2002; 16(2): 115–130.
“Reasons People Don’t Give Blood,” University of Maryland Medical Center web site; http://umm.edu/about/blood-drives/reasons-people-dont-give, last accessed January 13, 2015.
“Why should I donate blood?” World Health Organization web site, June 2013; http://www.who.int/features/qa/61/en/.

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