Vital as it is, the functions of a blood bank and its benefits are constrained by a lack of understanding. Myths and apprehensions about blood donation are many and they often affect a person’s decision to donate blood or receive blood. Some facts as below should clear your doubts on blood donation as well as blood bank services.
Does Donating Blood Make You Physically Weak?
Unfounded fears about blood donation deter many people from donating blood. Fear of becoming weak, going impotent and contracting AIDS, besides religious beliefs, are among them. Get these facts:
- Blood donation doesn’t cause any type of weakness. The example is the millions of donors who donate blood daily worldwide.
- In extremely rare cases, the donor may faint. It is mostly psychological. A donor can resume routine duties immediately after blood donation.
- At times, a donor may feel vertigo, nausea and pain and experience swelling at the prick site. All these can be managed easily by the blood bank staff.
For Your Own Health, Donate
- A donor’s health is not affected by donating blood. New blood is produced in the body after every blood donation to replenish lost blood.
- Before you donate, a thorough physical and medical examination is done by trained medical personnel. It includes checks on blood pressure, pulse, body temperature, weight and whole body examination.
- Other major tests are related to haemoglobin count, HIV 1 & 2, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and malaria.
- There are people who walk in for blood donation and walk back awakened to things that call attention to their own preventive health needs, based on these tests.
Who Can And Who Shouldn’t Donate Blood?
Any one aged between 18 to 65 years, who is physically and medically fit and mentally alert, can donate blood. Persons with high-risk behaviours like multiple sex partners, IV drug abuse and history of unprotected sex should desist from donating blood. The donor’s minimum weight should be 45 kg and minimum haemoglobin count should be 12.5 gm/dl. Blood pressure, pulse and such parameters should also be within normal limits.
Where May You Donate Blood?
Blood donation may be done at any licensed blood bank or during outdoor blood donation camps conducted by licensed blood banks. It is best to keep safe and avoid donating blood during mega camps (that are arranged for a large number of donors mostly to make records) because safety and quality standards are at risk during such events.
How Often And How Much?
As per National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) standards, a man can donate blood once every three months, while a woman can do so once every four months. Normally, blood banks collect 350 ml from donors who weigh between 45 kg and 55 kg and 450 ml from those weighing above 55 kg.
Time And Procedural Issues
While the entire procedural process of blood donation takes about 45 to 60 minutes, the actual blood giving or collecting time is only 5 to 7 minutes. The complete process of blood donation includes
- Donor registration (filling up of donor form)
- Pre-donation counselling
- Physical and medical examination
- Screening for qualifying tests like checks on blood pressure, pulse, temperature, haemoglobin and weight
- Blood collection
- Resting after donation
- Refreshment and post donation counselling
Can A Blood Bank Reject A Donor?
A blood bank can defer/reject a donor temporarily or permanently, based on physical and medical examination or history.
Should You Really Wait Until It Is An Emergency?
In India, voluntary blood donation currently meets just about 50 per cent of the actual requirement of blood. About 50 per cent of this lot goes to children and the elderly, who cannot donate blood in return upon their recovery.
In terms of process, a blood bank shall subject every unit/sample of harvested/donated blood for blood grouping and antibody screening and mandatory safety checks against the following five infections - HIV 1 & 2, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis and Malaria. The entire process takes anywhere between 24 and 48 hours and blood banks cannot issue a harvested blood unit to patients in need without the completion of these safety checks.
Caught in this gap in supply and time factor of the mandatory safety procedures are the lives of the following: i)Patients of road traffic accidents who invariably require immediate blood supply, but generally have no immediate family or a known person around when they are wheeled into the emergency/casualty units. ii)Patients of thalassemia, burns, cancer, haemophilia and those on dialysis - all of whom need blood/blood components at every 15-30 days interval. The lives of both these categories and others depend on regular donation by voluntary blood donors and an established network of blood banks.
So, no waiting till it is an emergency. If you are healthy and fit, you must try to donate blood at regular intervals so that there is stock enough for every patient in emergency.
Types Of Blood Donors
- Voluntary donor: A person who gives blood of his/her own free will and receives no payment either in cash or kind.
- Replacement donor: A donor who gives blood when it is required by a member of the patient’s family or community.
- Paid/Professional donor: The case where blood donation is made in exchange for money or other form of payment. It is BANNED in our country.
"All health parameters permitting, a man can donate blood once every three months, while a woman can do so once every four months"
- A donor should provide complete details of health and behaviour before blood donation to ensure one’s own safety and safety of the potential recipient.
- Disclosing behavioural patterns is essential because if a person donates blood within the window period (the period between infection and the development of detectable antibodies or antigens), the recipient too is at risk of contracting the infection.
- An honest history of exposure to any type of infection, either by unprotected sex or by using contaminated needle must be disclosed to the blood bank authorities before blood donation.
What Happens To Donated Blood?
- After collection, the blood bank either uses it as whole blood or separates it into blood components like red blood cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate. In blood banks that have the facility for differentiation of blood components, one unit of harvested blood can serve the needs of 3-4 patients.
- Every unit of blood that is harvested is checked for blood grouping and subjected to antibody screening. It is also checked for five mandatory infections - HIV 1 & 2, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis and Malaria.
- Only when the blood unit is found negative for all the five mandatory infections is it released for the use of patients.
- Stored blood/blood components are issued to patients within a stipulated time.
Selecting A Blood Bank
- To confirm for oneself the quality of a blood bank, a person can ask to see the valid license of the blood bank.
- Check on hygiene, safety measures, presence of a doctor, trained staff, testing methods and resources. Check also its readiness to handle emergencies.
- The blood bank should have displayed sufficient information about good blood bank practices, blood donation as well as blood processing.
- Donor and recipient parties both have a right to ask the bank to provide information about these facilities, if not assured.
- It is always better to choose a blood bank that is accredited by agencies like NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers).