Giving Blood Saves Lives

This blog is written by our clinicians and aims to keep patients informed with up to date information on medical conditions. The editor of the blog is Dr Cristina Romete.

The Blood Transfusion Service always needs blood donors. Donated blood is used to treat critically ill patients who have lost blood through accidents, surgery or chlid birth, and for some chronic medical conditions. Constituents of blood, platelets and plasma, are also used to treat conditions such as clotting disorders.

The blood transfusion service works 365 days a year  and needs to have a mix of blood types to meet needs. It is more important in people requiring repeated transfusions to have closely matched blood.

 

Blood Groups

There are eight different blood types – A positive, A negative, O

positive, O negative, AB positive AB negative, B positive and B negative.

O positive is the commonest blood type.

O negative blood can be given to anyone.

 

Some rare subtypes are more common in specific communities, which is why more blood donors are needed from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Sickle cell disease is more common in black people and transfusions are often required to treat this problem.

 

Shelf life of blood products

  • red blood cells can be stored for up to 35 days
  • platelets can be stored for up to 7 days
  • plasma can be stored for up to 3 years

This is why it is important to have as many blood donors as possible.

 

Who can give blood?

You are eligible as a blood donor if you are

  • are fit and healthy
  • weigh between 7 stone 12 lbs and 25 stone, or 50kg and 160kg
  • are aged between 17 and 66 (or 70 if you have given blood before)
  • are over 70 and have given blood in the last two years

 

You may need to check with the Blood transfusion Service

  • f you are receiving medical or hospital treatment
  • if you are taking medication
  • after travelling outside of the UK
  • after having a tattoo or piercing
  • during and after pregnancy
  • if you feel ill
  • if you have cancer
  • after receiving blood, blood products or organs.

More information can be found on the website regarding medications, timing after tattoos , travel and more.

 

Men often make ideal donors because:

  • men’s additional body weight means they have suitable iron levels
  • they are less likely than women to carry certain immune cells meaning their plasma is more widely usable for transfusions
  • their platelet count is typically higher meaning they are more likely to be accepted as platelet donors.

 

You can’t give blood if

  • You are HIV positive.
  • You are a hepatitis B carrier.
  • You are a hepatitis C carrier.
  • You are HTLV positive
  • You have ever had or been treated for syphilis
  • You have ever injected, or been injected with, drugs; even a long time ago or only once. This includes body-building drugs and injectable tanning agents. You may be able to give if a doctor prescribed the drugs. Please check with us to make sure.
  • If you think you should have a hepatitis or HIV blood test.

 

How often can you give blood?

  • Men can give blood every 12 weeks and women can give blood every 16 weeks

 

What happens at the appointment for giving blood?

You will be welcomed and your details will be checked to make sure you are suitable for donating. A finger prick test will be taken to make sure you are not anaemic.You will sit in a chair and a blood pressure cuff will be fitted on your arm – this is not to check blood pressure but helps the flow of blood. Your arm will be cleaned and a needle will be inserted, similar to having a blood test. The blood is collected is a special bag.  The process takes 5-10 minutes. When the bag is filled sufficiently the needle is removed and pressure is put on the puncture site to minimise any bruising. A plaster will be applied. After donation you will be given something to eat and drink, and asked to wait 15 minutes before leaving.

 

Will I miss the blood that has been taken?

The amount of blood taken is 470ml, which is just under a pint.

After donation, your body has an amazing capacity to replace the blood that has been given. You donate less than a pint of blood at a time, almost half of this is water. That’s why it is important for you to drink plenty of water before and immediately after donating.

 

The average adult has around 10 pints of blood (roughly 8% of body weight). Blood is made up of red blood cells which transport Oxygen to the tissues of the body. The substance within the red blood cells that does this function is Haemoglobin.

Haemoglobin contains iron, and some is lost with each blood donation. To compensate, iron is mobilised from the body’s iron stores, and the body also increases the amount of iron it absorbs from food and drink.

Your body makes about 2 million new red cells every second, so it only takes a number of weeks to build up stores of them again.

 

After a donation, most people’s haemoglobin levels are back to normal after 6 to 12 weeks. 

 

How to organise an appointment

It is possible to make an appointment in several ways. There are online sites for each country where you can register or you can phone directly to make an appointment. The web sites also contain lots of helpful information and you can find your nearest centre.

 

Contact details

 

Scotland.              https://www.scotblood.co.uk                    03459090999

England.               https://my.blood.co.uk/home                   03001232323

Wales                   https://www.welsh-blood.org.uk/en/        0800252266

Northern Ireland   https://nibts.hscni.net                              08085534666

 

Don’t delay contact your Blood transfusion service now and see if you could save someone’s life.

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