There's plenty of blood flowing through a person's veins, but unfortunately, there's not enough blood being donated. According to the Red Cross, only one person in 100 people donates blood, although the need for blood is constant. If you're thinking of donating your blood, it's important to be aware of the requirements and restrictions so you don't get turned away.
In order to be a blood donor, there are certain requirements that must be met:
- You must be at least 17 years old. Some states do allow 16-year-olds to donate if they have their parents' permission.
- You must weigh at least 110 pounds.
- If you are 18 years old or younger, you must meet certain height and weight requirements.
- If you want to donate more than once, you must wait at least eight weeks before donating blood again.
Even if you meet all of these requirements, you still may be ineligible for blood donation, either permanently or temporarily.
While all blood is tested after it is given, certain types of bacteria or viruses may not show up at the time of testing. That's why it's important, for yourself and for the person that will receive your blood, to not donate if you have certain illnesses or take certain medications. If you have the following illnesses or meet these conditions, you are permanently ineligible to donate blood:
- Sickle cell disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Hepatitis B or hepatitis C
- Blood cancer
- HIV or AIDS, or if you are at risk for developing HIV
Other restrictions include:
- If you take Tegison
- If you've ever taken IV drugs that were not prescribed to you.
- If you or a first-degree relative suffers from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
- If you have had unexplained jaundice since the age of 11.
- If you have ever received a dura mater transplant or have taken human pituitary growth
- If you were born in or lived in certain countries in West Africa.
- If you've spent a large amount of time in countries where mad cow disease is found.
- If you have diabetes and have ever taken bovine insulin made from cows from the United Kingdom.
- If you have ever received a blood transplant in the United Kingdom or Africa.
Even if none of the above applies to you, you still may be turned away from the blood bank.Here are some of the conditions that may make you temporarily ineligible:
- If you have an acute infection, you must wait until it clears up and you are off of antibiotics.
- If you've gotten a tattoo from a non-state regulated facility or a piercing with non-sterile instruments, you must wait 12 months to donate.
- If you've been treated for syphilis or gonorrhea or have had sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis, you also must wait 12 months to donate.
- If you've been incarcerated for more than three days, you must wait 12 months after your release to donate.
- If you've had an organ or tissue transplant, or if you've had a blood transfusion that used another person's blood, you must wait 12 months to donate.
- If you have had a heart attack, angina, angioplasty or bypass surgery, you must wait six months.
- If you've traveled to Iraq or have traveled to or lived in countries where malaria is found, you must wait 12 months before you are eligible to donate.
- If you are pregnant, you must wait until six months after you give birth.
- If you've had certain immunizations or vaccinations, you may have to wait three to eight weeks to donate, depending on what type of shots you've had. Talk with your doctor or the blood bank before donating.
Although having to wait can be frustrating, it is the best way to protect yourself and others. And once that waiting period is over, you'll be eligible to donate time and time again.
What to Expect
If you meet the requirements and pass the restrictions, you're now ready to donate your blood. It can be an uneasy experience for some, especially if you're scared of needles and get queasy at the sight of blood. Being prepared and knowing what to expect are the best ways to feel comfortable and confident about donation. Before you give blood, here are some things you can do to get ready:
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat a low-fat, high-iron diet.
- Get a good night's sleep.
- Make sure you have your ID ready.
- Wear a short-sleeve shirt or a shirt with sleeves that easily roll up.
- Make a list of medications that may be in your system
The process of getting your blood drawn may seem daunting, but it's actually very simple. Here are the steps, as outlined by the Red Cross, of the donation process:
- Registration: Here's where having your ID comes in handy. You'll need to show a form of ID to register and staff will go over donation information with you.
- Health history and mini-physical: You'll be asked some questions about your health, what medications you may take and the places you've traveled. Your pulse, temperature, blood pressure and hemoglobin level will all be checked before donation.
- The donation: An area on your arm will be cleansed and a sterile needle will be inserted. The whole process takes up to 10 minutes and about one pint of blood will be drawn.
- Refreshments: After donating, you are invited to the refreshment area where you can have a snack and a drink.
After the whole process is done, you may feel some side effects such as dizziness or a stomachache. In rare cases, people have been known to faint or develop nerve damage. It's important not to exert yourself for the rest of the day and to make sure that you keep properly hydrated and nourished. Donating blood can be a positive experience, and afterward, you'll feel good knowing that you've helped someone in need.