On Being a Blood Donor: Facts and Myths

woman donating bloodIt might surprise you to learn that someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds. That amounts to more than 41,000 blood donations that are needed every day.

A healthy lifestyle can offset medical issues that require blood, but the need for blood to treat accident victims, children, and more, is great–and a large number of us can help.

Blood Donation Facts
  • Blood cannot be manufactured—generous donors are the only source of blood
  • One pint of blood can save up to three lives
  • Modern medical care still relies heavily on a steady supply of blood
  • The average blood transfusion requires nearly 3 pints of blood
  • Common uses for the average blood transfusion: cancer patients, anemic patients, trauma victims, surgical patients…especially those undergoing open-heart surgery and transplant, who may require platelet transfusions to survive
  • Children and infants, including child cancer patients, child heart surgery patients, and premature infants, all need blood and platelets from all blood type donors, especially O
  • In the event of a wide-spread or large scale emergency, blood stores can be critical, as it will be a time when finding donors will be difficult
  • Less than 10% of the U.S. population donates blood each year (almost 40% are estimated to be eligible!)

Visit the American Red Cross website to learn more and find a donation center near you.

Blood Donation Myths
  • It’s difficult to donate blood. Actually, the process if very simple. You can make an appointment, answer a few questions, and sit for a short time while the blood is drawn. There is a small pin prick with little to no discomfort.
  • It takes a long time to donate. Nope, the process takes about 10 minutes. You will be a blood donation center, in most cases, no longer than one hour in total.
  • The age restrictions are tight. Not really. In most states you must be 17 years old. In some states you can be 16 years old with parental consent.
  • I might get a disease. Not true! Blood donation centers use new, sterile, disposable equipment. It is safe.
  • I just got a tattoo, or my body pierced, so I can’t give blood. For this it depends on what state you got your tattoo or piercing in, if the shop was licensed. There may be little to no waiting period for you to donate blood, or in some cases, it might be a year-long wait for certain tattoos.*
  • I probably won’t qualify. Typically the requirements are that you weigh at least 110 lbs., are feeling good, and are in good health in general. There are a few medical conditions that will prevent you from being a donor.* They will go over your health status in your interview pre-donation.

*For more information about states’ requirements for tattoo shops, health status and medications that affect donor eligibility and more, check this website.

All in all, it’s much easier to give blood than most people think. The blood is also much more needed than most people realize. Something to think about in American Heart Month!

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