January 26, 2004
January is National Volunteer
Blood Donor Month.
"This year, the American
Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) and America's
Blood Centers have set a joint goal to collect 1.2 million units
of blood during the month of January. A spike in holiday traffic
accidents has led to an increased demand for blood, but a bitter
flu season has added to the usual wintertime donation deterrents,
such as bad weather and vacations. As a result, blood supplies have
already reached crisis-level lows in many communities....but partners
in the blood community believe that Americans will see National
Volunteer Blood Donor Month as an opportunity to roll up their sleeves
and respond to the urgent need."
How much blood is really needed?
"Each unit of blood
consists of a volume of 450ˆ500 milliliters, or about one pint.
About 15 million units of red blood cells were donated in 2001 in
the United States by about 8 million volunteer donors. This supply
of blood is used by about 5 million patients. Blood is in constant
demand because it is necessary to treat accident victims, people
undergoing surgery, and patients with leukemia, cancer and other
While this month it is
in the news--and there are occasional pleas throughout
the year when supplies get dangerously low, and hospitals are forced
to postpone surgeries--requests cannot be made each time there is
a need. There is a constant need, and a constant plea for urgent
help would soon lose it's ability to illicit a public response.
in the number of blood donations following national disasters have
been documented. But we don't know as much about the long-term impact
on the blood supply. In other words, do people who donate blood
after a national disaster--particularly first-time donors--continue
to donate blood in non-disaster situations? Another concern is the
safety of donated blood because first-time donors are more likely
to have transfusion-transmissible viral infections (TTVIs) than
people who donate blood regularly."
What about a risk of infection
for those who are donating?
"A person can't get
an infection or disease from donating blood. Needles and other equipment
used are sterile and they're used only on one person and then thrown
away. There are virtually no health risks associated with donating
blood, according to the American Association of Blood Banks. A few
donors may feel a little bit uncomfortable after donating blood,
but this feeling typically goes away quickly. The donor's body replenishes
the fluid lost from donating blood within 24 hours. It may take
up to 2 months to replace the lost red blood cells, which is why
a person can only donate blood once every 8 weeks."
Can anyone donate blood?
There are medical conditions and lifestyle choices that would prevent
blood from being usable to hospitals--including everything from
having a current cold or infectious disease to medicinal or illegal
drug use. One of the most common reasons people who try to donate
blood are not accepted is anemia.
"For blood donors,
the iron level is required to be slightly higher than what is considered
the 'normal range.' Approximately 10 percent of those individuals
who register to donate are temporarily deferred and the majority
of deferrals are due to low iron."
Other requirements include:
"To donate blood, the American Red Cross requires that people
be at least 17 years old and weigh more than 110 pounds. Donors
must be in good health and will be screened for certain medical
conditions, such as anemia. Despite the age requirements, the Red
Cross estimates that 15% of all blood donors in the United States
are high school or college students. If you meet the eligibility
requirements and you're interested in donating blood, you'll also
need to give your medical history and pass a physical exam before
donating. The medical history includes a series of questions that
help estimate the risk that the donor might have an infection that
could be transmitted in their blood."
"[T]he Red Cross estimates
that 15% of all blood donors in the United States are high school
or college students."
Not everyone wants to donate
blood. Not everyone can.
Questions of the Week:
How can people determine if blood donation is the right choice for
them? What lifestyle choices can people make that will help ensure
that their blood is healthy enough to help others? In what ways
can blood donation help keep people accountable to a more healthy
lifestyle? Since blood donation is not an option for all, what else
can people do to help those in need in their communities?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum