Start the New Year with the Gift of Life – Donate Blood!

Start the New Year with the Gift of Life – Donate Blood!

You can help save someone’s life this year by donating blood. Nearly 30,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S. for transfusions, surgeries and other medical needs. There is a constant need for fresh donations, as blood products can only be stored for a limited time before they must be used or discarded.

Know Your Blood Type

When you combine the 4 distinct blood types (A, B, AB, O) and whether your blood has the Rhesus factor protein (Rh+ or Rh-), the collection may look like a big bowl of alphabet soup. However, the information about your specific blood type is very important to your health and those who receive your blood donation.

Like your eye color, your blood type is determined by the blood types of your mother and father. Your mother may have O and your father B, so you may have O or B. But in the case of a mother with A and a father with B, the child may have A, B, AB or even O. With so many possibilities, you need to know your blood type in case of an emergency.

Each blood type has specific antigens (proteins) in the plasma that make types of blood different. If you ever need an emergency blood transfusion, the blood you receive must contain antigens that are compatible with your blood type. If they are not compatible, your body will attack the foreign antigens like a virus.

You could be one of nearly 5 million Americans each year who receive a blood transfusion, often due to:

  • Serious injuries
  • Pregnant mothers experiencing labor difficulties
  • Changes in cancer cases
  • Premature babies

Blood Components

When you help others and donate blood, your blood may be used in its entirety, which is called “whole blood,” or it may be separated into these specific components:

  • Red blood cells – Type of blood cell that carries oxygen throughout the body
  • Platelets - Tiny piece of a blood cell that helps form clots to slow/stop bleeding and to help wounds heal
  • Plasma - Liquid part of the blood that carries the blood cells

Donating Blood

It is easy to donate blood and may only take 30-60 minutes, depending on how many people are donating at one time. Be sure to make an appointment so that you have a specific time to donate.

On the day of your donation, keep these tips in mind to help your body avoid any adverse side effects from the donation:

  • Eat a healthy meal beforehand, avoiding fatty foods like hamburgers, fries or ice cream
  • Drink an extra 16 ounces of water before your appointment
  • Wear a shirt with sleeves you can roll up above your elbows
  • Relax and read or listen to music as you donate

After you donate, be sure to:

  • Keep the bandage on for several hours
  • Don’t do any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise that day
  • If you experience dizziness, stop what you’re doing and sit down
  • Keep eating iron-rich foods

Since your blood can be segmented into different components, your one blood donation can help save the lives of 3 people. Please consider donating blood soon, especially in January, which is National Blood Donor Month.

To read more about donating blood and which blood types are compatible with yours, visit the American Red Cross website.