ASHLAND There’s no shortage of reasons to donate blood.
Giving blood is said to detoxify the body by forcing the body to produce new cells.
It also reduces the risk of cancer and hemochromatosis, which is overproduction of blood, as well as damage to the liver and pancreas.
But the most important reason is to save lives.
It’s a good time to make the move to become a donor, as January is National Blood Donor Month and February is National Heart Awareness Month.
The Mayo Clinic outlines various types of blood donations.
Whole blood donation
This is the most common type of blood donation, during which you donate about a pint of whole blood. The blood is then separated into its components — red cells, plasma, platelets.
During apheresis, you are hooked up to a machine that can collect and separate blood components, including red cells, plasma, platelets, and return unused components back to the donor.
Platelet donation (plateletpheresis) collects only platelets — the cells that help stop bleeding by clumping and forming plugs (clotting) in blood vessels.
Donated platelets are commonly given to people with leukemia, people receiving chemotherapy and babies with severe infections.
Double red cell donation allows you to donate twice the amount of red blood cells than you normally would during a whole blood donation. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to the entire body.
People with a medical need for only red blood cells include those with severe blood loss, such as after an injury or accident, and those who have anemia with serious symptoms
Plasma donation (plasmapheresis) collects the liquid portion of the blood (plasma). Plasma helps blood clot and contains proteins and other substances, such as electrolytes, that help the body function normally.
Plasma is commonly given to people with liver conditions, burns and severe bacterial infections in their blood.
Are there risks?
Blood donation is safe, the Mayo Clinic’s website said. New, sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there’s no risk of contracting a bloodborne infection by donating blood.
Healthy adults usually can donate a pint of blood without danger. Within 24 hours of a blood donation, the body replaces the lost fluids. And after several weeks, the body replaces lost red blood cells.
To be eligible to donate whole blood, plasma or platelets, you must be in good health; at least 17 years old; weigh at least 110 pounds; and pass the physical and health-history assessments.
Before donating, physicians recommend donors:
• get plenty of sleep the night before the donation;
• eat a healthy meal, avoiding fatty foods, as tests for infections done on all donated blood can be affected by fats that appear in your blood for several hours after eating fatty foods;
• drink an extra 16 ounces of water and other fluids;
• Avoid taking aspirin for two days prior if donating platelets.
Those not eligible
Because of the risk of bloodborne infections, not everyone can donate blood. The following high-risk groups are not eligible to donate blood:
• Anyone who has ever used injection drugs not prescribed by a doctor, such as illegal injection drugs or steroids not prescribed by a doctor;
• Men who have had sexual contact with other men in the past 12 months;
• Anyone who has a congenital coagulation factor deficiency;
• Anyone with a positive test for HIV;
• Men and women who have engaged in sex for money or drugs;
• Anyone who, in the past 12 months, has had close contact with — lived with or had sexual contact with — a person who has viral hepatitis;
• Anyone who has had babesiosis, a rare and severe tick-borne disease, or the parasitic infection Chagas’ disease;
• Anyone who has taken etretinate (Tegison) for psoriasis;
• Anyone who has risk factors for the degenerative brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or who has a blood relative with CJD;
• Anyone who spent three months or more in the United Kingdom from 1980 through 1996;
• Anyone who received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom or France from 1980 to the present;
• Anyone who has spent five years in Europe from 1980 to the present
What to expect
Donors receive a brief physical exam, which includes checking your blood pressure, pulse and temperature. A small sample of blood is taken from a finger prick and is used to check the oxygen-carrying component of blood. If hemoglobin concentration is normal and you’ve met all the other screening requirements, you can donate blood.
Donors lie or sit in a reclining chair, arm extended on an armrest. With a blood pressure cuff or tourniquet around the upper arm, the inside elbow is cleaned and a new, sterile needle is inserted into a vein in the arm. This needle is attached to a thin, plastic tube and a blood bag. Once the needle is in place, tighten the fist several times to help the blood flow from the vein. Blood initially is collected into tubes for testing. When these have been collected, blood is allowed to fill the bag, about a pint. The needle is usually in place about 10 minutes. When complete, the needle is removed, a small bandage is placed on the needle site and a dressing is applied to the arm.
During apheresis, blood is drawn from one arm and pumped through a machine that separates out a specific component, such as platelets. The rest of the blood is returned through a vein in the other arm. This process allows more of a single component to be collected. It takes longer than standard blood donation — typically up to two hours.
After the procedure
Recovery in an observation area includes a light snack and a 15-minute rest.
It is recommended to:
• Drink extra fluids for the next day or two.
• Avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for the next five hours.
• If you feel lightheaded, lie down with your feet up until the feeling passes.
• Keep the bandage on your arm and dry for five hours.
• If you have bleeding after removing the bandage, put pressure on the site and raise your arm until the bleeding stops.
• If bleeding or bruising occurs under the skin, apply a cold pack to the area periodically during the first 24 hours.
• If your arm is sore, take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen. Avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen for the first 24 to 48 hours after donation.
• Contact the blood donor center or your doctor if you forgot to report any important health information before you donated or if you had any problems or needed medical care after giving blood.
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