Did you know that 6.8 million people in the U.S. give blood each year? Giving (donating) blood is a personal decision. Blood donations help save lives and benefit people of all ages. In fact, someone needs blood every two seconds! You don’t need to know your blood type to donate, but there are some things you need to know if you are thinking about donation.
When Can I Give Blood?
In most states, you must be at least 17 years old to donate. Some states, including Ohio, allow donors to be 16 years old with a parent’s consent. It’s important to be healthy overall. The American Red Cross suggests donors weigh at least 110 pounds. If you are under 18 or giving blood at a high school blood drive, there may be other height and weight requirements. Donors can give about one pint of blood every two months. For questions related to whether you are eligible to donate blood, refer to the “Donate Blood” section on the American Red Cross website.
What Kind of Blood Do I Give?
Most people donate whole blood. You can also donate platelets. They are cell fragments in your blood that form clumps (clots) and stop bleeding. Some people donate plasma. Plasma is the liquid portion of blood. Each type helps people in different ways.
What Happens When I Donate Blood?
You can search online for blood drives near you. Check with your doctor to see if any medicines (for example, antibiotics, blood thinners, anti-acne medication and others) you take would affect your chance to donate. The night before you donate, try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Eat a healthy meal (skip the burgers, fries or pizza this time) a few hours before you donate. Drink a lot of water too.
The day you donate, wear a shirt with sleeves that can be pushed up or rolled up. You will sign in and show your ID. You will answer some questions and get a brief health check. You will sit in a comfortable chair while you are giving blood. That part takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Next, you will be given a snack and drink. You will rest for about 10 to 15 minutes after you donate. After that, you can go about your day!
Are There Times When I Can’t Donate Blood?
There are times when you cannot or should not donate blood. Do not give blood if you have a fever (above 99.5 degrees). Do not give blood if you are having trouble breathing through your mouth. (This can be due to a cold, allergies or asthma). You should not give blood if you are taking certain antibiotics. Always check with your doctor about your medicines before you donate.
What If I Can’t Give Blood?
If you are not able to donate blood, there are still ways to help:
Plan a blood drive at school or work.
Volunteer at a blood drive.
Talk about blood donation on your social media channels.
Kathleen K. Nicol, MD, is the Vice Chair of Clinical Laboratory, Director of Transfusion Services, Point of Care Testing, Off-Site Laboratories and Perioperative Autologous Blood Program at Nationwide Children's Hospital and a Clinical Professor of Pathology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
Laboratory Transfusion Services
Stephanie Townsend is a manager of the Laboratory-Blood Bank on the Central Campus of Nationwide Children's Hospital.
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