Common Myths About Blood Donation Debunked

Jul 21, 2021
By
Cardiologist, Gracie Square Hospital

Debunking Myths About Blood Donation

If you are reading this because you or someone you know is still on the fence about donating blood, we want to help you. Let us debunk the most common myths about blood donation so you can join the ranks of those whokeep our blood banks stocked up and save lives.

Facts About Blood That Help Debunk Myths About Donation

Before we start with the myths, it is important to establish a few basic facts about blood. These facts will help you understand how we debunk myths about blood donation.

Facts about blood everyone should know:

·        There are eight main blood types for transfusions

·        These blood types are all derived from the main ABO groups and the RH – which makes each either positive or negative

·        ABO and RH are antigens

·        The rarest blood type from within these main types is AB negative (AB-)

·        Only about 1% of donors in the UK for instance, are AB negative

·        Leaving transfusions aside, there are 36 other known blood groups

·        Aside from the antigens –or absence of antigens – that ABO and RH groups denote, there are another 600types of antigens in blood

·        Rare blood types beyond the main eight transfusion types can be so difficult to come by that countries sign treaties among themselves to fly frozen blood out to the country that needs it the most at any given point in time

·        There are three main components in blood – Plasma, blood cells (including red and white), and platelets

·        You recover all your plasma within 48 hours of donating

·        Your blood completely recovers from the donation process 56 days after donating

·        Given that blood has many components, a single unit can be used to save multiple people

·        Blood components have a shelf life of one year for frozen plasma, five days for platelets, and 42 days for red blood cells

·        Between 7% and 10% of your body’s volume is blood

·        There is between 1.2 and1.5 gallons of blood in your body

Does Blood Donation Hurt?

After establishing the vital facts above, we can now move onto the first myth: donating blood hurts. This is a very misleading statement for the following reasons:

·        The process of donating blood has various steps

·        Blood donors will experience a degree of pain only during the first part of the process, when a nurse introduces a needle in the donor’s arm

·        Pain is relative; some have a higher threshold for pain and will describe the pinch from the needle as a minor discomfort

No one can say that donating blood is an entirely painless process. But it is important to contextualize the painful part. The entire process takes about ten minutes. Of that, you might feel pain for a few seconds.

If you get bruising from the needle, you might experience some mild pain after the donation is over. Nevertheless, experiencing pain after the process is over is unusual.

Donating Blood is Dangerous

If donating blood does not hurt, then what is the danger? Basically, there is almost no danger whatsoever, but again, it is important to understand what others mean when they tell you donating blood is dangerous:

·        Plasma recovery is quick

·        Donations take out about13.5 fluid ounces or 400 ml from the donor’s body

·        That unit of blood constitutes less than 10% of the blood a normal human body has

You might feel dizzy after donating, but if you are healthy, you should recover quickly. The calculation on the amount of blood you can donate is designed to allow your body to function properly after you donate. This formula has been tested countless times. You have nothing to worry about on that regard.

Can I Get a Disease Through Blood Donation?

Another aspect of harm or danger that has become a myth is disease transmission. It is virtually impossible for blood donors in the US to get infected with any disease when they donate. The needles and all the necessary equipment are sterile, and nurses dispose of the needle they use on each donor after a single use.

Patients who receive a transfusion on the other hand, might be slightly more at risk from contracting a disease from donor blood. Nevertheless, the chances are slim to none. According to the Red Cross the odds blood transfusions will result in infection are:

·        One in two million for HIV

·        For Hepatitis B or C chances are one in 300,000

·        When it comes to West Nile Virus, the odds are one in 350,000

You Cannot Donate Blood if you are Sick

Blood donations are screened thoroughly to avoid infecting the person who gets the transfusion. On the other hand, people might have non-communicable medical conditions. Therefore, some people who are considered to be “sick” or have recovered from certain illnesses can donate blood.

If you suffer from one of the following diseases or medical conditions, you will still be able to donate blood:

·        Diabetes

·        High cholesterol

·        After you recover from infectious diseases like influenza

·        Cancer – Five years after you recover unless you had blood cancer like Leukemia for instance

·        Allergies

·        Asthma

Other conditions will preclude you from donating blood, like Crohn’s Disease. In some cases, you will be required to wait for a period of time before you are eligible to donate blood. If you travel to a tropical

destination where Malaria is common for example, you might be asked to wait up to 21 days before donating.

The golden rule is, if you are otherwise healthy and you are feeling well, you can donate blood. In any case the nurse taking care of your intake process will determine if you are eligible to donate or not. Just remember that being “sick” is an overly broad concept, so you are not necessarily disqualified depending on your condition.

You Cannot Donate if you are on Medication

Following the myth about “sick” people not being able to donate blood, it is important to understand that if you have a medical condition that requires you to take medication, or you have otherwise taken over-the-counter medication, you might still be able to donate blood.

There are certain types of medication that will preclude you from donating. Allow the professionals to assess your case and avoid jumping to conclusions. They will determine if the medication you take prevents you from donating.

Blood Donations Are Crucial!

Now that you know more about blood and how many of the stories you have heard about who can or cannot donate blood are simply false, it is time to help. Blood banks are in constant need of something that you can give at a negligible cost. Donate blood, reduce scarcity, and save lives!

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