June 14th is World Blood Donor Day (WBDD). This global event provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations while thanking people who have already donated.
Figures from the NHS reveal that the trust needs over 200 000 new donors each year to meet future patient needs. There is currently a countrywide shortage, particularly of black donors, so the WBBD campaign couldn’t come at a better time.
Why is it so important to give blood?
Blood products and transfusions save thousands of lives each year, and the NHS needs a regular supply to meet day-to-day and emergency requirements. Therefore, everyone should be able to access supplies of safe blood when they need them.
As there are several blood types and sub-blood types, donations are needed from all backgrounds to maintain adequate blood stock levels. Some blood types, such as O negative, are in high demand. The red cells from this blood type can be used to treat anyone who needs blood. For example, if there’s an emergency and the medical team don’t know the patient’s blood type, they can use O negative.
If your blood can’t be used for transfusions for any reason (for example, it has expired or hasn’t been kept at the right temperature), it can be used for other purposes, such as research and development, training and testing equipment.
Who can donate blood?
Most of us can become blood donors and help ensure there is enough safe blood for everyone.
You are eligible to donate blood if you are:
- Aged between 17 – 66 (70 if you’ve given blood before)
- In good health
- Between 7 stone 12 lbs and 25 stone (50kg and 160kg)
You can give blood every 12 weeks if you’re male and every 16 weeks if you’re female.
You may not be able to donate blood if you:
- Have certain medical conditions such as anaemia
- Are taking antibiotics
- Are pregnant or undertaking IVF
- Have visited certain countries in the last six months
- Have had acupuncture, a tattoo or piercing in the last 12 weeks
- Are a man who has had sex (either protected or unprotected) with another man in the previous 12 weeks
- Are an active sex worker
You can never donate if you:
- Have or have had cancer
- Are HIV positive
- Have or have had syphilis
- Are a Hepatitis B or C carrier
- Have ever taken drugs intravenously, including bodybuilding drugs and tanning injections
If you are not sure if you can give blood, please check with the NHS before attempting to donate.
How do I become a blood donor?
It’s easy to become a blood donor. Call 0300 123 23 23 or book an appointment online. The donor line is open 24/7, so you can call anytime.
You must make sure you’ve eaten and drunk some water before you attend your donation appointment. If it’s the first time you’ll be donating, you can find out more about what to expect when you give blood here.
Five interesting facts about blood
- There are eight main blood types
- 35% of the population has O positive, the most common blood type
- AB negative is the rarest blood type
- There is a global database for rare blood
- Blood and blood products have a limited shelf life: red blood cells 35 days, platelets 7 days, and plasma 3 years
Donating just one unit of blood can help in four different ways.
- Red blood cells are used for blood transfusions
- White cells can be used to treat people with infections who aren’t responding to antibiotics
- Platelets are used to help clotting, for example, to treat people with leukaemia or bone marrow failure
- Plasma can be used to treat liver and kidney disease
An appointment to give blood and become a blood donor only takes an hour, so make June 14th your donation day and save someone’s life.
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