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Your blood can save a life

Just about every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion.

Your blood is truly remarkable. It helps your body run smoothly by delivering nutrients and oxygen, removing waste, fighting infection and helping the body heal. In addition to the many roles it plays inside your body, it can also serve as a lifesaving gift to others, through blood donation.

Being healthy is the most important requirement for being a blood donor. Donating blood is simple, relatively painless and requires only a small time commitment, according to the American Red Cross.

Blood donor bio

In addition to good health, blood centers require that blood donors weigh at least 110 pounds, be at least 17 years old (some states allow donors to be 16 if they have parental consent) and not have given blood in the past 56 days. Blood donors can be taking medications such as aspirin, allergy medication, sleeping pills or Tylenol. You can also donate if you've recently been vaccinated for flu, meningitis, tetanus or human papillomavirus (HPV). However, for certain other vaccinations, you may need to wait a few weeks after receiving it to donate blood.

Certain conditions may prohibit you from donating blood, such as:

  • A blood-borne disease such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, malaria or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or being at high risk for having one.
  • Pregnancy.
  • A low blood iron level.
  • A cold or the flu.

Make a date to donate

When you go to give blood, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your health history, including questions about places you've traveled. A brief physical examination will check your temperature and pulse and test a drop of blood for anemia. The results of this screening will determine whether you are a suitable donor.

If you satisfy screening requirements, your blood will be drawn. You will lie back and relax, and a needle will be inserted into your arm to draw the blood. Approximately 1 pint of blood will be drawn each time you donate. A healthy person can donate as often as every eight weeks.

After donating, you should sit down, rest for a few minutes and drink liquids. You will be able to resume normal activities within 10 to 15 minutes of donating, but your blood volume will be reduced, so you should avoid strenuous physical exercise immediately after you donate.

Your body will replace the lost fluids within 24 hours, but it will take several weeks to replace lost blood cells. You should also avoid heavy lifting for a few hours after donating to prevent bruising the arm where the needle was inserted.

If you know in advance that you will need blood, such as before a planned surgery, you can donate blood for your own use as well.

Safety concerns

Donating blood doesn't put your health at risk. You can't contract hepatitis or HIV by donating blood. The needle used to draw your blood is sterile and is discarded after being used.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitor the screening practices of organizations that draw blood as well as the safety of the current blood supply. Blood-collection centers are required to ask donors specific questions about risk factors. This helps ensure that unsafe blood doesn't enter the system.

The benefits of donating

You never know when you or someone you love might need blood. When you give blood regularly, you help ensure that donated blood will be available for anyone who needs it.

Reviewed 10/25/2023

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