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8 Questions about Blood Donation Answered

Jeff Anderson
By Jeff AndersonJanuary 13, 2014

January is National Blood Donor month, a health awareness event sponsored by the American Red Cross. According to Red Cross statistics, each day 44,000 units of blood are required by patients in U.S. healthcare facilities. But, wintertime is a not a good season for blood donation. The Red Cross notes, “January is a challenging time for blood donation because cold and snowy weather and busy post-holiday schedules can make it difficult for blood donors to keep appointments.” 

8 Questions About Blood Donation Answered

From the facts about older blood donors, to whether giving blood hurts – here are eight questions and answers about blood donation:

1. What kinds of ailments could require a senior to have a blood transfusion?

Seniors need blood for the same kinds of reasons other populations do. The most common reason is anemia, a condition that lowers the number of healthy red blood cells. Other issues that can require a senior to undergo a blood transfusion include cancer and bleeding diseases like hemophilia. Furthermore, blood transfusions can be required to replace blood lost during surgery.

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2. Can seniors donate blood?

Yes, seniors can donate blood, but when over age 71 (or sometime 76) they must have a doctor’s note attesting that they are healthy enough to donate.

3. Is blood donation safe?

Yes, blood donation is considered very safe. Sterile, disposable medical equipment is used for each donor, which negates risk of bloodborne infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, “If you’re a healthy adult, you can usually donate a pint of blood without endangering your health. Within 24 hours of a blood donation, your body replaces the lost fluids. And after several weeks, your body replaces the lost red blood cells.”

4. Is it safe to receive blood?

According to the Red Cross “the blood supply in the United States is safer than it has ever been.” Multi-layered screening is employed to assure that recipients of blood transfusions are protected to the utmost degree. These strategies to assure a safe blood supply include:

  • Screening the social and medical histories of potential donors
  • A physical exam of the donor
  • Careful donations procured using sterile supplies
  • A regimen of laboratory tests to check for contamination of the blood and infectious illnesses

5. How does giving blood make a difference?

One Donation Saves Three LivesThe blood you donate is separated into three components: red blood cells, plasma and platelets. This means that one unit of blood can save up to three lives.

6. How long does it take to give blood?

According to the Red Cross, the entire blood donation process takes about 45 minutes, while the blood-drawing procedure itself takes about 10 minutes.

7. What does it feel like to give blood?

Giving blood can hurt slightly when your skin is pricked by the needle, and some donors report feeling slightly faint during or after giving blood. But donors say that knowing they have made a difference in someone’s life makes any discomfort worth while. For example, A Place for Mom holds blood drives bi-annually. We spoke with A Place for Mom partnership coordinator Roger Scott, who said he has participated in every A Place for Mom blood drive since he’s been with the company. “I have an O-positive blood type which makes me a universal donor… Just knowing the blood I give could help save makes me feel very good about myself and what I’ve done.”

8. Where can I donate blood?

Enter your zip code at RedCrossBlood.org to find nearby blood donation centers.

We welcome your comments below.

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