“How often can you donate blood?” is one of the commonest questions to pop up in our minds whenever we think about blood donation. But before we get to that, let’s take a look at what donating blood is.
It isn’t uncommon to see the need for and the act of donating blood. The need for blood in a hospital setting is numerous. Therefore, all the donated blood and the donors are screened for potentially harmful diseases and illnesses that may get transmitted via the donated blood.
Despite the want to donate blood, it is important to know if you are eligible for blood donation.
The following mentioned are the basic eligibility guidelines set by the WHO for blood donation:
1- Age: between 18 and 65.
2- Weight: weigh at least 50 kg.
3- Health: must be in good health at the time of donation. Any infection, no matter how minor, bars you from making the donation.
– At least 6 months should have passed between the time of getting a tattoo or body piercing and donating blood.
– A minimum of 24 hours must pass after a dental visit (for a minor procedure) and a month (for a major procedure) before donation.
– A minimum hemoglobin level in blood should be met to be able to donate blood.
4- Travel: Travelers to areas of mosquito-borne infections endemics are temporarily deferred.
5- Behaviours: You must not give blood if you have engaged in “at-risk” sexual activity in the past 12 months
6- Permanent deferrals:
– a positive test for HIV (AIDS virus)
– history of recreational drugs use (injection)
7- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: a deferral period is equal to the duration of pregnancy (at least 9 months). It is better not to donate blood while breast-feeding. Blood can be donated blood after a minimum of 3 months after the baby has weaned.
These are the basic eligibility criteria set by the World Health Organisation, but the criteria differ from one country to another. It is always advisable to check the criteria in your country when wanting to donate blood.
The next question that enters the mind is:
How often can you donate blood?
Men can donate every 12 weeks, while women can donate 16 weeks.
Can diabetics donate blood?
Generally, it is safe for a diabetic to donate blood irrespective of whether it is type 1 or type 2 diabetes. However, there are some factors that may prevent a person from donating blood:
a- Blood sugar levels
A diabetic is eligible for blood donation as long as the blood glucose level is within the target range and in control. And, as long as there are no other health-related issues.
The blood sugar needs to be in range because blood with too much sugar doesn’t store well.
b- Source of insulin
Diabetics using bovine-derived insulin since the 1980s are ineligible for blood donation. This is because of the fear of Creutzfeldt-Jakob or mad cow disease. There is a slight possibility of passage of the disease via blood transfusion.
A diabetic patient should always talk to their doctors regarding any medications they are on, as any of those could be on the deferral list.
Therefore, it is important to have a healthy lifestyle and maintain blood sugar levels within range.
Benefits of donating blood
Donating blood benefits not only those in need but also the donors.
1- Reduced iron levels
Despite being one of the important minerals required to produce red blood cells, an excess of iron in the body can actually cause harm. A condition called hemochromatosis occurs where iron deposits into different organs of the body and affect their functioning. This reduction in iron may also be beneficial in preventing heart attacks.
2- Health screening
Each person donating completes a simple physical examination and blood test before making the actual donation.
As a result, the donor is able to identify health concerns that they were previously unaware of — for example, changes in blood pressure or abnormal blood counts.
The health screening involves checking of the following components:
- blood pressure
- body temperature
- hemoglobin levels
and diseases such as:
- hepatitis B
- hepatitis C
- West Nile virus
- Trypanosoma cruzi
3- Feeling of altruism and contentment
Knowing that another person will have their lives saved because of the donated blood gives the donor a sense of relief. This, in turn, improves their mental health. Being able to help this may make a person feel belonged to a society. This helps avoid the feeling of isolation and abandonment.
Thus, they end up feeling better about themselves and to some extent, relieves stress.
American Red Cross says that one donation can save as many as three lives. It is a deed worth doing.
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4- Sheds calories
Up to 650 calories can burn during a single donation. Although, blood donation isn’t an alternative to actual physical exercise, burning some calories is actually of a health benefit to some.
Besides blood, some other types of donations include:
- platelet donation
- plasma donation
- double red cell donation
It is a common myth that blood/plasma donation causes weight gain. So naturally, the question begs:
Does donating plasma make you gain weight?
The answer is NO. The body naturally replaces the blood or the plasma lost from the body. This actually burns calories rather than causing weight gain. However, since plasma contains proteins and a regular donation can lead to a decrease in protein levels. Because of this, fluid leaks out of the blood vessels into the other tissues causing an appearance of weight gain or swelling. This is medically termed as edema.
In the end, each year, thousands of people rely on receiving donated blood and blood products to stay alive.
Donate blood. Save a life