The frequency and interval of blood donations usually depend on which blood component you are donating.
What is blood donation?
Blood donation is the process of collecting, testing, preparing, and storing blood and other blood components for later use. Blood donors are referred to individuals who volunteer to give blood. The main purpose of blood donation is to help save the lives of people who have specific medical conditions.
The transfusion of blood or other blood components is needed by:
- Individuals with severe trauma due to natural or man-made disasters
- Children who have severe anemia due to malnutrition or a mosquito-borne disease called malaria
- Women who have pregnancy or childbirth complications, such as hemorrhage and ectopic pregnancies
- Cancer patients
- Patients who have complex surgical procedures
Regular transfusion is also required in people who have certain blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Transfusion support with red blood cells (RBCs) is also needed by people who have hemophilia.
Regular blood supply is constantly needed because blood has a limited shelf life. To make sure that blood is available whenever and wherever it is needed, regular blood donations from healthy individuals are needed. Thousands of individuals depend on receiving donated blood to stay alive. Blood may also be needed for medical research purposes.
Benefits of Blood Donation
Blood donation not only helps the person who is in need of it, but it also has its own advantages for the person who donates blood. According to research, there are health benefits that you can get from donating blood. Let's take a look at some of these health benefits.
1. Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
The risk of cardiovascular problems may be reduced when you regularly donate blood. The reason is that donating blood can help reduce the viscosity of blood. Moreover, a single blood donation can help save more than one life. In the United States alone, blood is needed by someone every two seconds.
According to a study conducted in 2013, the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and total cholesterol are significantly reduced through regular blood donation, and provide protection against cardiovascular diseases (1). Researchers also note consistent results from other studies, which suggest that blood donors are more likely to have a lower risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases. The body’s iron stores may also be reduced and may lower the risk of heart attack when a person regularly donates blood (2). High iron stores in the body are thought to increase the risk of having a heart attack.
2. Lowers your cancer risk
In a study conducted in 2016, it was found that blood donation can help boost antioxidant capacity and lower inflammatory markers in the body (3). Another study also found that regular blood donation can help reduce the risk of developing certain types cancer, such as:
These types of cancer are also associated with high levels of iron in the body.
3. Free medical checkup and screening
Before you can donate blood, you need to undergo a screening process, which also involves a general health checkup. The following vital signs will be checked by a trained staff member:
- Hemoglobin level
- Blood pressure
- Body temperature
Through this basic medical checkup, you can get insights about your current health status and can even effectively identify underlying health problems, including risk factors for certain medical conditions.
Donated blood is also screened and tested using ABO blood typing, Rh typing, RBC antibodies, including screening for a number of organisms that cause infectious diseases, such as:
What you need to know before donating blood
Blood donors must be at least 17 years old or older to be able to donate whole blood. However, there are some states that allow blood donations from 16-year-olds provided that they have a signed parental consent.
To become eligible for blood donation, you must weigh a minimum of 110 pounds an in good health. Other criteria may also apply.
You will also be asked to provide information regarding your medical history and a list of medications you are taking (if there are any). Giving false information can significantly affect your eligibility for blood donation.
An interval of 56 days or eight weeks is required before you can donate blood again, especially when you donate whole blood. When donating double red cells, you need to wait 16 weeks before you can donate again. However, when it comes to platelet donations, it can be possible up to 24 times a year or after every seven days.
It is ideal to become prepared before donating blood. You can do the following suggestions, so you can better prepare for your blood donation:
- Consume a low-fat, healthy meal.
- Drink an additional 16 ounces of water before your scheduled donation.
- Choose clothes that are comfortable to wear, preferably a shirt with sleeves that can be easily rolled up or a short-sleeved shirt to make donating blood easier.
How often can you donate blood?
Whole blood donations require at least an interval of 56 days or eight weeks between donations. For Power Red donations, you need to wait at least 112 days or 16 weeks before you can donate again.
For platelet apheresis donations, it can be done up to 24 times a year or after every seven days. Autologous donors may have different regulations.
What to do after donating blood?
After giving blood, you can eat a snack and drink plenty of liquids, except alcohol for the next 24 hours. Other tips after donating blood include:
- Keeping the bandage on for several hours.
- Cleaning the area around the bandage using soap and water to avoid developing a rash.
- Consuming foods rich in iron.
- Avoiding vigorous exercises or heavy lifting for the rest of the day.
- Taking multivitamins with iron if you regularly donate blood. This will help replenish iron stores before donating blood again.
- Avoiding any activity that may lead to injuries.
- Resting, lying down, or sitting down whenever you feel lightheaded or dizzy. Seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms do not get better after resting.
Blood Needs & Blood Supply. (n.d.). https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/how-blood-donations-help/blood-needs-blood-supply.html
The Benefits of Donating Blood. (n.d.). https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-donating-blood#1
What to do Before, During and After a Donation. (n.d.). https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-donation-process/before-during-after.html
Frequently Asked Questions. (n.d.). https://www.redcrossblood.org/faq.html
(1) EI Uche, et al. Lipid profile of regular blood donors. J Blood Med. (2013)
(2) Edgren G., et al. Donation Frequency, Iron Loss, and Risk of Cancer Among Blood Donors. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute. (2008)
(3) Yunce, M., et al. One more health benefit of blood donation: reduces acute-phase reactants, oxidants and increases antioxidant capacity. Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology. (2016)
- Whole blood donations require at least an interval of 56 days or eight weeks between donations.
- For Power Red donations, you need to wait at least 112 days or 16 weeks before you can donate again.
- For platelet apheresis donations, it can be done up to 24 times a year or after every seven days.