Know Before You Donate
Fact: The need for blood is great, with 21 million blood transfusions occurring annually in the United States.
Fact: One blood donation can save up to three lives.
What’s fiction? Read on.
Myth No. 1: It will hurt.
Beyond the pinch of the needle and the pressure on your arm from the tourniquet, donating blood does not hurt. You may experience some dizziness or lightheadedness during or after your donation.
Myth No. 2: It takes a long time.
Registration and processing times vary, but blood donation itself takes around eight to 10 minutes. Registration involves filling out a form with personal information and verifying your identification. Then you’ll answer questions about health and travel history, and receive a brief physical examination to determine if you’re eligible to donate blood. Your personal information will remain confidential. You’ll also be required to spend some time recovering before you leave. Don’t worry, there will be refreshments!
Myth No. 3: I’m too old.
While the age for donation without consent from a parent or guardian is 17, there is no upper age restriction so long as you meet the eligibility requirements for donating.
Myth No. 4: Blood can be stored forever.
The different components of blood have different shelf-lives.
- Red blood cells must be stored in a refrigerator and discarded after 42 days.
- Platelets can be stored at room temperature up to five days.
- Plasma can be frozen and kept for one year.
Myth No. 5: I can’t donate if my iron level is low.
This is not necessarily true. Iron is a part of what makes up hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood. Before you donate, your hemoglobin levels will be tested via finger prick to ensure that it is safe for you to give blood. If your hemoglobin is too low, you’ll be more likely to faint or feel ill from giving blood. For your safety, you would not be able to donate blood that day.
Myth No. 6: I can’t donate if I’m on medication.
This is only partially true. It’s not the medication itself, but the reason for which you were prescribed the medication that could disqualify you from donating blood. The American Red Cross offers this breakdown of medications that affect donation eligibility.
Myth No. 7: I can only donate once a year.
Your blood replenishes itself, but not all at once. Your body replaces the plasma you lost within 24 hours. Red blood cells take about four to six weeks to be completely replenished. That’s why you must wait at least 56 days between donations of whole blood.
Myth No. 8: I can’t donate if I have tattoos or piercings.
If you were tattooed or pierced with a single-use instrument at a tattoo parlor which is state regulated, you can donate without restriction. If not, you must wait one year to donate blood.
Myth No. 9: I can’t donate if I’ve traveled.
Depending on where you traveled and when, you may not be able to donate blood for up to one year. Travel to countries with active malaria, Zika or Ebola virus outbreaks is a risk and will be assessed on a case-to-case basis by the nurse or technician facilitating your donation registration.