Each year, many generous Americans offer the incredible gift of their own blood, providing life-saving measures for millions of people. Donated blood benefits victims of accidents or burns, surgery patients and people undergoing treatment for cancer, sickle cell disease or hemophilia. Yet, since someone needs blood every three seconds, shortages often occur. You can help by donating your blood—you may save the life a friend, a neighbor or a member of your own family.
Donating takes about an hour, but the blood draw usually takes just 10 minutes. Anyone in good health, over age 17 and weighing at least 110 pounds may be eligible to donate. You’ll be asked about your past and present health, medications, lifestyle and travel. Some health conditions, such as having hepatitis or taking certain medications, will prevent you from donating. Others, such as pregnancy or an infection, may defer you temporarily. The eligibility guidelines are intended to protect your health and safety as well as that of the people who may receive your blood.
A health professional will conduct a brief exam, which will include taking your temperature, blood pressure and pulse and checking a drop of blood from your finger to make sure you have enough red blood cells to donate safely. A new, sterile needle attached to a bag is inserted into a vein in your arm to collect about a pint of blood. Afterwards, you’ll rest for several minutes and then have some fruit, cookies or juice for quick energy. Your body will replenish the pint you’ve donated within a few weeks.
Most of your donated blood will be separated into its different components, such as red cells, platelets, plasma and clotting factors, allowing your single donation to help at least three people. If you’re not eligible to donate, consider other ways to contribute. Recruit a suitable donor, volunteer to assist at collection sites or help organize a blood drive. The sense that you’ve truly made a difference in someone’s life will make you feel like a hero.