Why You Should Donate Blood: The Basics Of Different Blood Products

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If you are looking for a way to serve your community, you may want to consider donating blood. About 4.5 million people in the U.S. need a blood transfusion every year; unfortunately, only 10% of the eligible population donate. If this is something you'd be willing to do, read on to learn more about basic eligibility requirements and different blood products you can provide.

Are You Eligible?

Some places let you donate blood products if you are at least 16 and have a guardian's consent. If you are under the age 23, you must meet certain height and weight requirements. Obviously, you must be in good health and feeling well—meaning, no cold or flu symptoms—in order to donate. You may be feeling healthy, but the blood bank may turn you away if you are anemic or your blood pressure is too low. Serious issues, like AIDs, previous IV drug usage, and hepatitis bar you from ever donating.

There are many medications which discount eligibility. For instance, Accutane—a very common acne medication—must be stopped for at least a month or the donated blood could cause severe birth defects to a pregnant person receiving the transfusion.

Lastly, if you've traveled outside of the country, you may temporarily be unable to donate blood. Your doctor, a blood products expert, or a member of the American Red Cross can give you more detailed information on your eligibility status.

What Blood Products Can You Give?

It may sound strange to consider that there are different "blood products," but different products treat different medical conditions.

Whole Blood Donation

This is arguably the most common type of donation, as your blood will be used in its original form. These donations are often used for people going through invasive surgery or for those in traumatic accidents, like a car crash.

White Blood Cell Donation

Donating white blood cells takes about twice as long as a whole blood donation—so keep that in mind. When you donate the blood, you will have needles in both arms. One arm will draw the blood, while the other will have a centrifuge that will separate the blood components. Once the white blood cells are collected, you'll actually have a saline solution, red blood cells, and plasma returned to your arm.

White blood cell donations are greatly needed for people who aren't responding to antibiotics. These donations are also used for people who've had prolonged chemotherapy. 

Red Blood Cell Donation

During this donation, plasma (the liquid component of blood) is removed from your whole blood. These donations help patients with anemia, intestinal bleeding, or kidney failure.

Platelet Donation

Platelets are cells that help to stop blood vessels clot. Some people, like cancer patients, have a shortage of platelets and need these transfusions. Some autoimmune diseases destroy platelet counts, so they transfusions are necessary so people don't lose to much blood if they need an organ transplant.

Cryo Factor Donation

Cryo is a piece of plasma; it is like platelets in that it helps to clot blood. Some patients have hereditary conditions, like hemophilia, where they will bleed profusely at the slightest injury. Donations of the cryo factor are vital so that these people can manage their condition.

As you can see, there are many kinds of blood products that can help people. If you believe you are eligible to donate, contact a healthcare expert in your area for more information.