Someone in the US needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. Without blood donations, many people would go without life-saving treatment. Donating blood provides treatment for many different diseases and helps replenish blood after an injury.
World Blood Donor Day raises awareness worldwide of the need for safe blood and blood products, and thanks voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood. It brings attention to the benefits of donating blood, both for transfusion recipients and donors. Below, learn about how donating blood saves lives, its importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how to donate blood.
Donating Blood Saves Lives
Only about 38% of people are eligible to donate blood. Among them, only a small portion actually donate. According to the Red Cross, approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed daily in the United States, with the average transfusion requiring three units. One person can save up to three lives with a single donation.
“We can’t manufacture blood in the lab, which makes it different than most treatments. The ability to save lives with blood transfusions is dependent upon people selflessly donating to fill the blood supply in hospitals,” says PRA’s Joanna Perkins, Director of Medical Affairs, Hematology-Oncology.
Donating blood is a way to serve the community, and healthcare facilities use that blood for many purposes, including:
- Severe injuries
- Cancer treatment
- Blood disease treatment
- Hemorrhage after childbirth
- Anemia treatment
- Surgical procedures
Without enough blood, people with these conditions and more cannot get adequate treatment. By donating, people contribute to offering the care others need while reaping benefits for themselves. Donating blood allows donors to get a free health screening as donation centers ensure their eligibility to donate blood.
Donating blood also offers many health benefits. It can make a person’s heart healthier by lowering their blood pressure, thereby reducing their risk of heart attack and stroke. Donating also reduces hemoglobin, which can help reduce blood clots. Additionally, it can help hemochromatosis patients whose bodies produce too much blood due to excess iron absorption. This condition puts them at risk of other conditions like liver disease and diabetes, and they must have blood taken to lower that risk. Donating blood removes that excess blood, reducing the risk of disease in otherwise healthy hemochromatosis patients while benefitting people who need blood transfusions.
Why Is Donating Blood Important During COVID-19?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), blood donations dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, patients continued to need blood transfusions, leading to a blood shortage in many areas of the world. Blood donation centers have put measures in place to make it safe for people to donate blood during the pandemic. As long as the person has not had COVID-19 in the past 14 days, many healthy people are still eligible to donate, and locations are taking precautions to ensure everyone’s safety while giving blood.
Elective surgeries decreased during the pandemic, and the corresponding need for blood decreased slightly, too. However, people still live with diseases that require blood transfusions and injuries still occur, which means hospitals still need blood. One study showed that 13% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients needed blood transfusions—about four percent of the total blood transfusions performed—which means donating blood is one way to help people recover from COVID-19 and contribute to pandemic relief.
Hospitals also used convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19. This treatment involves using plasma from a person previously infected with COVID-19. The plasma is given to current COVID-19 patients to transfer those antibodies to them and help them fight the infection. Convalescent plasma has been shown to improve the prognosis for COVID-19 patients by giving their bodies more resources to fight the virus.
What to Know Before Donating Blood
Eligible people can donate blood several times a year, depending on the type of blood donated. The timeline varies for red blood cells, plasma, and platelets and generally follows this schedule:
- Whole blood: every 56 days
- Double red cell: every 112 days, up to three times a year
- Platelets: every seven days, up to 24 times a year
- Plasma: every 28 days, up to 28 times a year
Donors should drink plenty of water and eat well before donating to prevent lightheadedness and increase the body’s ability to replenish blood. People should also not exercise after donating blood that day, though they can exercise before donating.
Those who aren’t eligible to donate can still contribute to keeping hospitals supplied with blood. Many volunteers are needed at blood drives and can help the organizations that run them. Getting involved in relief efforts and donating financially also help organizations get blood to hospitals that need it.
PRA works alongside many organizations in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to educate people about why the healthcare industry needs more blood donors.
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