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October 19, 2017

Donating Blood Benefits Patients and Donors

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One Donation Can Help as Many as Three Patients

Have you ever thought about being a blood donor? Healthy individuals have the ability to produce blood and replace the blood that may be lost through a blood donation. The average adult has about 10 pints of blood and a donation generally removes 1 pint.

It is reported that 30,000 to 40,000 blood transfusions are given every day in the U.S. One blood donation can be used by as many as three patients. Some premature babies benefit from as little as 3 teaspoons of blood. Most donations are whole blood, but some people donate just platelets. Whole blood donations can be done as often as every eight weeks; platelets can be done more often than that.

Donating blood is safe. Potential donors are screened for health concerns that would make donating unsafe. The screening is to help protect them from harming themselves and from potentially harming the recipient. It is not a good idea to donate if you are ill or you have a low blood count. You cannot get a bloodborne infection from donating blood.

While the recipients of blood transfusions are the ones that benefit the most, there are benefits to the people who donate blood as well. Generally, people donate for the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping someone else, which is usually a person that they do not know. The donor can also have satisfaction in knowing a sample of their blood can be used to do research to help the general population.

However, in addition to the satisfaction donors receive, there are other benefits. One benefit is that donors get a free mini health screening. Donors will have blood pressure, heart rate, heart rhythm, temperature and a check for anemia even before they donate. Then a sample of the blood will be checked for blood borne illness like hepatitis, AIDS and others. For those people who are recommended to have a screening test for hepatitis C, this is a way to get it done at no charge.

Another health benefit is that donors tend to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Blood donations tend to keep the blood a little thinner and also helps control the iron levels in the body. Iron is an oxidant. So keeping the iron levels from getting too high has the effect of an antioxidant to help prevent blood vessel damage.

There is also evidence that donating blood can reduce cancer risk. This may also be related to the anti oxidant effect. Also, donors can benefit from having fresh blood cells produced by the bone marrow in response to the blood loss. It takes just about 24 hours to replace the liquid portion of the donation and a couple weeks to replace the blood cells.

In order to donate, one has to be at least 115 pounds and at least 17 years old (or 16 with parental consent) in Wisconsin. Did you hear what the blood donor said when another donor asked her out on a date? She said, “Sorry you’re not my type, I can’t have someone B negative.”

It is reported that about 1 out of 10 people who could donate actually donate at least once a year. So if you are healthy enough, consider donating blood. You can help others but there can be benefits for you too. Stay healthy my friends.

Michael Shattuck, MD, is a family practice physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Wautoma.

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