June 15, 2016 171
In light of yesterday being World Blood Donor Day, let’s find out a little more about blood donation. According to the WHO, 108 million units of blood are collected every year, with nearly half of them coming from higher income countries. “Voluntary, unpaid blood donations must be increased rapidly in more than half the world’s countries in order to ensure a reliable supply of safe blood for patients whose lives depend on it.”
Firstly, a little bloody breakdown
Blood is made up of platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells and plasma.
RBC: contains hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all parts of the body and removes carbon dioxide for excretion. They have a lifespan of 120 days. Uses: treatment of anemia, replace RBC in accidents or childbirth/surgery
White blood cells: defends our body against infections. They have a lifespan of only 24 hours and are not usually used for blood transfusions.
Platelets: The “Glue”. Have clotting factors which stops bleeding. Uses: treatment of dengue, leukemia and cancer patients
Plasma: 55% of blood. Contains special proteins like antibodies which fight against cancer and infection. Uses: replace clotting factors which may be depleted during infection or bleeding.
There are two types of blood donation: whole blood and apheresis. Aphresis is the process whereby platelets and plasma are separated from whole blood through a machine. The remaining blood is pumped back into the donor. Although Aphresis is more costly and time consuming as compared to donating whole blood, the specific components can be used to treat specific diseases. Apheresis donations require a shorter waiting period, roughly 2 weeks, in between donations while the waiting time for whole blood donations is 12 weeks.
Some commonly asked questions about blood donation:
- Why should I donate blood? Blood transfusion saves lives and improves health! (WHO/HAS). It contains many components which can be essential in treating various illnesses and diseases. (HSA). Blood is needed in times of emergencies to sustain lives of those with medical conditions like leukemia, anemia and those undergoing surgery. One unit of blood can even save 3 lives!
- What happens to blood I donate? After donation, blood goes through strict testing in the laboratories of the Health Sciences Authority. They are tested for disease such as hepatitis, STDs, HIV/AIDs and Malaria. Rest assured, the blood is safe!
- Who can donate blood?
- In Singapore the donor criteria are: between 16-60 y.o; weigh at least 45kg; have a haemoglobin level of at least 12.5g/dL; good general health; no symptoms of infection for >1 week and no fever within the last 3 weeks
- Usually, a fingerprick test is conducted before blood is drawn to determine suitable hemoglobin levels. If you are anemic, your hemoglobin level would be <12.5g/dl and would be unable to donate blood.
- When should I not donate blood? According to the red cross, donors should not participate in blood donation when undergoing treatment for other illnesses or diseases. For example, diabetes, low blood pressure, high cholesterol and even vaccinations. Those who have been overseas should also check HSA’s website for overseas travel deferral criteria before donating blood. For more information, visit the HSA’s website on blood donation.
Calling all AB, O and A bloods!! As of today, the blood stock in Singapore is critically low in AB- and low in O- and A- blood! So come forward and do your part for society as your donation goes a long way
Health Sciences Authority
University of California, San Francisco
World Health Organization
Certified nutritionist with sports and fitness in my blood. Basketball is my passion and I live by Ali’s saying “don’t count the days, make the days count” View all articles by Sara.