It is common knowledge that donating blood voluntarily can help save a life and give hope to many whose situation may otherwise be hopeless. However, according to oneblood.org, despite being a vital solidarity action, only 5% – out of the 37% eligible people– roll up their sleeves to donate blood.
The number of blood donors have also significantly decreased in the past 2 years of the pandemic because of the concerns about health and safety. This has resulted in a scarcity of available blood supply in hospitals and blood banks.
This Blood Donor’s awareness month, give an invaluable gift to others by donating blood. Read this article by Trinity to know whether you are qualified to donate, why you should do so, and where you can donate.
WHO CAN DONATE BLOOD?
In the interest of the safety of both the donor and the recipient (patient), some requirements must be met to become a qualified donor.
According to the Department of Health, if you are interested to donate blood, you must:
- Be in good health
- Be between 16-65 years old (for donors under 18, parental consent is required)
- Weigh at least 50 kg or 110 lbs.
- Have a regular pulse rate (60-199 beats/min)
- Have blood pressure of 90-160 mmHg systolic and 60-100 mmHg diastolic at the time of donation
- Have hemoglobin/hematocrit of 125g/L or 0.37
Some people are restricted to donate temporarily because of certain health conditions but may be allowed to after a certain period. In general, you should not donate blood if:
- You are feeling unwell
- You are anemic (your hemoglobin will be tested before you donate to make sure it is at an acceptable level)
- You are pregnant, have been pregnant within the last year, or are breastfeeding
- You have certain medical conditions, which might make you an unsuitable donor
- You are taking certain medications, such as antibiotics.
- You have had a tattoo or body piercing in the past year
- You received the anti-rabies or anti-tetanus vaccine in the past year
- You have undergone surgery in the past year
You will not be allowed to donate blood anytime if you have:
- Cardiac disease
- Severe lung disease
- Hepatitis B and C
- HIV infection, AIDS, or Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)
- High-risk activity (e.g. prostitution)
- Unexplained weight loss of more than 5 kg over 6 months
- Chronic alcoholism
If you did not meet the eligibility requirements stated above, you will still be able to help others by recruiting a suitable donor that you know. Blood centers are always in need of volunteers to assist at blood draws or to organize mobile blood drives.
WHY DONATE BLOOD?
You can save up to 3 lives.
If you donate blood, it can be transfused in its original form and can help treat patients who need all components of blood such as those who sustained significant blood loss.
Whole blood can also be separated into its 3 main components (red blood cells, platelets, and plasma). Each component can be used for a specific medical need, in which case you may be able to save multiple lives – up to 3 lives.
With just a single donation, you can help women with complications during pregnancy and childbirth, children with severe anemia (often caused by malaria or malnutrition), cancer patients, people with blood disorders, trauma patients, and transplant patients.
There is a constant need for a regular blood supply.
Blood can be stored only for a limited period before use, after which it will become unusable. Thus, regular blood donation from several healthy people is needed to ensure that blood will always be available whenever and wherever it is needed.
Since blood donations had also slowed down in the past years due to the pandemic, regular blood supply from donors is needed now more than ever.
Blood donation improves cardiovascular health.
Blood donation benefits not only the recipient but also the donor. According to a several studies, regular blood donation is linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk for heart attacks. This is because donating helps to lower the viscosity of your blood which has been associated with the formation of blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke.
Giving blood can reveal potential health problems.
Prior to blood donation, you will be required to undergo a mini-physical exam in which someone will check your pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, hemoglobin, and more. This can sometimes reveal health issues you don’t even know about, such as high blood pressure or a heart arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation. In addition, you’ll be screened for infectious diseases you may be unaware of.
You may not be able to donate blood if the checkup reveals a problem, but this could be your first step towards getting treatment.
The whole donation process is fast.
The whole process of blood donation from start to finish only takes an average of 30 minutes according to Philippine Red Cross.
It only involves four quick and easy steps: registration, a health screening, blood extraction, and recovery (rest). The screening and selection procedure will usually take about 10 to 15 minutes. The blood extraction itself will take about 5-10 minutes, after which you will relax for 10 more minutes with a drink and snack before leaving.
Blood donation is safe.
During the blood extraction, new and sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there is no risk of contracting a blood-borne infection by donating blood.
In terms of the amount of blood to be collected, you can usually donate around 350-450 ml of blood (about half a liter) which only accounts for about 8% of the body’s blood (the average adult has 4.5 to 5 liters of blood). This amount is too little to endanger the body, so there is no risk of losing so much blood or getting weak as a result. In addition, your body replaces the lost fluids within a few days of a blood donation. And after two weeks, your body has replaced the lost red blood cells.
You also do not need to worry about not being able to function properly after the donation. Donating blood does not interfere with your ability to perform physically. You will only be advised to refrain from doing vigorous activities such as heavy lifting or strenuous workouts for the rest of the day after the donation, but you can get back on track the next day.
If you are concerned that your blood may not be safe because you contracted COVID-19 or got vaccinated for COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) clarified that blood donations are safe from vaccinated individuals and those who tested positive for Covid-19. The health department also said that asymptomatic persons can donate at any time. However, symptomatic and recovering persons need to wait for 14 days before they can donate.
WHERE TO DONATE?
There are several blood service facilities nationwide where you can safely donate blood. To find the blood donation center nearest you, you may visit the blood bank locator of the Philippine Red Cross (https://redcross.org.ph/give-blood/), and then contact the blood center to find out more about the requirements.
Aside from blood service facilities, you can also donate during various mobile blood donation activities done in the community, participating government organizations, private Kabalikat agencies, and schools/universities.
The minimum interval between 2 donations is 12 weeks (3 months). This means that, if you are healthy, you can donate blood to blood service facilities or blood donation drives up to 4 times a year or every 3 months.