World Blood Donor Day

Roll Up a Sleeve to Save Lives on July 14

Blood donation Blood donors with bandage after giving blood

By Pete Alfano

Whenever there is a natural or man-made disaster, it is customary to hear officials request food, clothing, and other essentials for those affected. Inevitably, there is always an additional plea for people to donate blood to help those injured and needing transfusions.

Donating blood, however, is not just for catastrophic events. The American Red Cross estimates that someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds in the United States, which means a hospital can require up to 44,000 donations a day.

Although scientists in England began a trial using whole blood to create red blood cells in a laboratory in 2022, medical science still has a long way to go before it can manufacture blood. Thus, the nation’s blood supply depends on the goodwill of donors who meet the health criteria.

According to medical experts, men can donate blood every three months, and women, whose iron totals are usually lower, can donate every four months. Blood donors must be 18 years of age. Those who are 16 or 17 can donate with their parent’s consent. The minimum weight for donating blood is 110 pounds. A pint of blood is taken each time, and the process from start to finish is about 45 minutes.

Blood Donation Prep

There are helpful tips to follow before donating blood, including:

  • Eat a substantial meal beforehand that includes iron-rich foods to aid in recovery. Eat iron-rich meals after donating as well.
  • You can exercise before giving blood, but not after because you have an increased risk of getting light-headed.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before your appointment and afterward.
  • Do not drink alcohol before donating and avoid caffeine and soft drinks.
  • Get plenty of rest the night before donating.
  • Cancel your appointment if you feel ill.
  • The American Red Cross also recommends that regular donors take iron supplements.

Female nurse preparing male donor for blood donation

What people may not know is that donating blood is also an investment in their own health. There are several benefits for regular blood donors. It can reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke. It can help prevent blood clots that develop into life-threatening pulmonary embolisms. It can lower the risk of liver, colon, throat, and lung cancers. And it enables people to feel good about themselves as one pint of blood can help save three lives. Believe it or not, donors also burn more than 600 calories during the process.

Before donating blood, people are given a brief physical exam and asked about their health history. In most cases, those who have medical conditions under control are eligible to donate blood to help others and, perhaps someday, themselves. High blood pressure, for example, does not disqualify a potential donor if the hypertension is controlled by medication. The same is true of diabetics if the condition is under control. Most prescription drugs do not disqualify a donor either. Pregnant women must wait six weeks after giving birth before donating. People who have had the COVID-19 vaccine can donate, and so can those who have had COVID-19, although they must be symptom-free for at least two weeks.

There are people, however, who are not eligible for blood donation. Current cancer patients or those who have had blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma are excluded. Anyone with cardiac or lung disease, HIV, AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD), drug and alcohol addiction, Hepatitis B or C is also prohibited.

Becoming a regular voluntary blood donor is a simple step that everyone can take to support local health systems and save lives.

For more information on donating, visit  

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