According to the American Red Cross, there's a 97% chance that someone you know
will need a blood transfusion. Blood donors — especially donors with certain
blood types — are
always in demand.
Who Can Donate Blood?
To donate blood, the American Red Cross requires that people be at least 17 years
old and weigh more than 110 pounds. (In some states, the age is 16 with a parent's
Donors must be in good health and will be screened for certain medical conditions,
such as anemia. Donors who
meet these requirements can give blood every 56 days.
Blood donation starts before you walk in the door of the blood bank. Eat a normal
breakfast or lunch — this is not a good time to skip meals — but stay
away from fatty foods like burgers or fries. And be sure to drink plenty of water,
milk, or other liquids.
Before donating, you'll need to answer some questions about your medical history,
and have your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and blood count checked. The medical
history includes questions that help blood bank staff decide if a person is healthy
enough to donate blood. They'll probably ask about any recent travel, infections,
medicines, and health problems.
Donated blood gets tested for viruses, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS),
hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, and West Nile virus. If any of these things are
found, the blood is destroyed. Because blood can be infected with bacteria as well
as viruses, certain blood components are tested for contamination with bacteria as
What's It Like to Donate Blood?
The actual donation takes about 10 minutes. It's a lot like getting a blood
test. After you're done, you'll want to sit and rest for a few minutes, drink
lots of fluids, and take it easy the rest of the day (no hard workouts!). Your local
blood bank or Red Cross can give you more information on what it's like and what you
need to do.
Are There Any Risks?
A person can't get an infection or disease from giving blood. The needles and other
equipment used are sterile and they're used only on one person and then thrown away.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates U.S. blood banks. All blood
centers must pass regular inspections in order to keep operating.
Sometimes people who donate blood notice a few minor side effects like nausea,
lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting, but these symptoms usually go away quickly.
The donor's body usually replaces the liquid part of blood (plasma) within 72 hours
after giving blood. It generally takes about 4–8 weeks to regenerate the red
blood cells lost during a blood donation. An iron-fortified diet plus daily iron tablets
can help rebuild a donor's red blood supply.
The Red Cross estimates that 15% of all blood donors in the United States are high
school or college students — an impressive number when you consider you have
to be 16 or 17 to donate blood. If you are eligible and want to donate blood, contact
your local blood bank or the American Red Cross for more information on what's involved.
You could save someone's life.