Did you know blood has an expiration date? Or that every 2 seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood? Here are 10 surprising things you never knew about donating blood, with information thanks to Red Cross Blood.
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Every 2 seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, a need that is echoed all around the world. Whether it’s a cancer patient, newborn baby, or a child with sickle cell disease, the lifesaving blood they need can’t be created, engineered or manufactured – it must come from a generous donor. Here are 10 more interesting facts about blood and blood donation.
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10 Things You Might Not Know About Donating Blood
#1. One pint of donated blood can help multiple people
When you donate a pint of whole blood, it can be given to one patient. Or, it can be separated into three specific components: red cells, plasma and platelets. These components can be given to separate patients, which is how your one pint of blood can help save multiple lives.
#2. You don’t have to donate whole blood – you can donate red cells, platelets or plasma
Whole blood is the most common type of donation, but not the only type. In the U.S. for example, the Red Cross accepts donations of red cells, platelets and plasma. For these donations, blood is drawn from your arm into an apheresis machine. Your donation is separated out and the rest of your blood is returned to you through your other arm. This cycle repeats several times.
#3. Different types of blood donations help different types of patients
Whole blood is frequently given to trauma and surgical patients. Red cells are given to trauma patients, babies during or just after birth, people with sickle cell anemia, and anyone suffering blood loss.
Platelets are used in cancer treatments, organ transplant procedures, and other surgeries. Plasma donations are used in emergency and trauma situations to help stop bleeding.
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#4. Blood has an expiration date
When it comes to blood donations, “the need is constant” because blood cannot be stockpiled. Whole blood must be used within 42 days after donation. Platelets must be used within just five days.
#5. Vegetarians and vegans can donate blood
Iron from plants is not absorbed by the body as easily as iron from animal protein. So it can take vegetarians and vegans longer to recover the iron they lose when donating blood. However, iron supplements (such as an iron-fortified vitamin) can help, as can a healthful diet rich in both plant-based protein vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron.
#6. You can generally donate blood even if you have a chronic illness or take medication
People with most chronic illnesses are eligible to donate blood, if you feel well, your condition is under control, and you meet all other requirements. Similarly, most medications and vaccinations do not affect your eligibility to donate blood. However, some medications require a waiting period between your final dose and your blood donation.
#7. You get a mini-physical before donating blood
You’ll be given a mini-physical at your appointment, to ensure you’re healthy enough to donate. Your temperature, blood pressure, pulse and hemoglobin levels will be checked, and new, sterile needles that are discarded after one use are always used.
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#8. In an emergency, some blood types can be given to anyone
When a trauma patient arrives at a hospital, every second counts. When the patient’s blood type is unknown, doctors rely on O negative blood and AB plasma, both of which can be given to recipients of any blood type.
#9. Different blood types are more common in different parts of the world
Like eye colour, blood type (A, B, AB, or O) is inherited from your parents. It also tends to be shared within racial and ethnic groups. For example, type O blood is the most common everywhere, but while close to 100% of South Americans have it, less than 60% of people in central Asia do. On the other hand, type AB blood is rare everywhere and only 4% of Americans have it – but nearly 10% of people in Japan are type AB.
#10. Your blood type is needed
43,000 pints of blood are used each day just in the U.S. and Canada alone. We would always have enough if more of us donated regularly, but unfortunately only around 38% of us (in the U.S.) are eligible to donate and fewer than 10% actually do. So whether you are O-positive or AB-negative or anything in between, your blood is needed!
Now that you know more about blood donation, will you donate? In the U.S., the Red Cross always needs generous donors to supply blood and platelets. You can find your nearest donation location here.
For readers in other countries, contact your local blood service organisation (Ireland / UK / Australia / Canada).
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.
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Have you ever considered donating blood? Leave a comment below and let us know we’d love to hear from you!