Blood donation: Drop the false notions

It's perfectly safe to donate blood. Don't believe if anyone tells you otherwise

happy drop of bloodThe greatest barrier that prevents people from donating blood, or even receiving blood, is not the inconvenience associated with it, but the negative attitude, false beliefs and lack of knowledge.

In an attempt to provide a better understanding about donating and receiving blood, we clear the air around some common myths.

1. I could get infected while donating blood.

Blood is drawn using sterile needles attached to sterile blood bags. Both the bags and the needles are disposed off after single use.

The professionals who draw blood are trained to follow strict aseptic precautions so that at no time do you come in contact with any material that is infected with someone else's blood or body fluids.

2. My health will deteriorate after I donate blood.

Blood donation has no ill-effect on a healthy body. On the contrary, donating blood reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and prevents excess iron from accumulating in the body.

You don't fall ill after donating blood and can resume your normal duties in some time. You can even donate blood again after three months. To make sure that it won't harm you in any way, a basic medical examination is performed prior to withdrawing blood to check if you are fit to donate blood.

If your haemoglobin [iron] level is below the required 12.5gm per cent, or you are found to be unfit due to any reason, you will be deferred from donating blood.

3. It takes up too much of my time.

The complete procedure takes only 30 minutes including the 5 – 10 minutes for actual blood collection.

Moreover, various organisations conduct blood donation drives at offices, colleges and even on railway stations so that donors are not inconvenienced and can save their time.

4. I am afraid that too much of my blood will be taken. I do not have sufficient blood in my body.

As a norm, only 350 – 450ml blood is taken from your body. This amounts to just 7.5 per cent of your total blood volume, which your body replaces within 48 hours of blood donation.

5. I can't donate blood because I'm afraid of needles.

If the same needle prick was from an injection that would save your life, you would silently bear with it, wouldn't you?

Donating blood does involve a needle prick but it is only a momentary discomfort that can make a lifetime of a difference to a person in need. It is natural to feel a bit nervous about blood donation, but after your first experience, you'll realise how easy and relatively painless it is.

6. I am on medication so I can't donate blood.

Not all medications are a contradiction to blood donation; you may be asked to refrain from donating blood for some time depending on the medication you're on. You will be able to donate blood, once your condition is under control.

7. I will be asked personal questions.

Only questions that are relevant and necessary for screening are asked. And the screening is done in complete confidentiality by professional staff. The goal is only to ensure that blood donation is safe for you as well as the recipient.

8. My religion doesn't approve of blood donation.

All religions propagate charity and what better form of charity could there be than one that saves someone's life? Besides, blood donation is encouraged by most religions as a social responsibility.

Religious outfits even organise blood donation drives on a regular basis. Blood donation is a matter of personal choice and the decision to donate is solely of the donor.

9. I don't need to donate blood as my blood group is common and my blood type is always available.

Your blood donation is more precious than you realise. There is a constant demand for blood of all groups. If your blood group is common, it only means that there are more number of people in need of your blood type.

Major surgeries, trauma and malignancies require large amounts of blood; so, the more blood available, the better it is.

10. It is safer to receive blood of a close relative.

When blood is donated by a relative for a particular patient, it is called Directed Donation. Directed donation from relatives is not always safe.

Blood from any blood relative such as parents or siblings can lead to serious medical complications like Graft Versus Host Disease [GVHD] in which the blood of the relative turns out to be harmful for the patient.

Also, at times, close relations or friends who have been socially pressurised to donate blood may not disclose high risk behaviour or may withhold correct medical history, which is risky for the recipient. It has been proved and accepted universally that blood received from regular voluntary donors is much safer.

11. I wouldn't undergo a blood transfusion because I may contract an infectious disease.

Every effort is made to ensure that the blood supply does not transmit infectious diseases and that the patient receives safe blood. Blood is drawn into sterile single-use disposable blood bags from donors who are thoroughly screened and medically fit.

Healthy donors are encouraged to donate regularly to contribute to the nation's safe blood pool. Advanced testing technologies are used to screen each blood unit for HIV 1 and 2, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and malaria. In addition, physicians today use blood sparingly and transfuse blood only when medically necessary to save a life.

With blood communicable infections being rampant, it is natural to have many fears about donating or receiving blood but when in need of blood, there is no other substitute for it.

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