We often take our blood for granted. Although it keeps us alive, we don’t really spend too much time thinking about it. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way how vital donating blood is. Every unit of blood donated represents a single person who took the time out of their day to give the gift of life. If you’ve never donated blood before, here are a few things you should know.
1. Not Everyone is an Eligible Donor
Even though you may be set on donating some of your blood, there is an initial screening process to ensure that you meet the criteria. Obviously, this is in an attempt to collect clean and disease-free blood for patients who are already in fragile health. Even after you’ve been screened, all donated blood is tested to ensure that no diseases are transmitted. For various reasons, you may not be eligible if you:
- Are under 17 years old
- Are intoxicated
- Have blood cancer (lymphoma, leukemia)
- Have Type 1 Diabetes
- Ever suffered a heart attack or if you have coronary heart disease
- Are pregnant or nursing
- Have AIDS or are HIV positive
- Are unwell from disease
For more information on the eligibility requirements of giving blood in Canada visit the FAQ page of the Canadian Blood Services.
2. Have a Tattoo or Piercing? Yes, You Can Still Donate
There used to be a stigma against people with tattoos and piercings. People with tattoos may have been at further risk of contracting blood-borne diseases and viruses, but tattoo parlours have come a long way in ensuring the absolute cleanliness and sterility of all their equipment. If you have a tattoo or piercing, you are eligible to donate blood 6 months after your last procedure, due to the risk of contracting Hepatitis B and C. This requirement also refers to microblading, permanent makeup, electrolysis, and acupuncture.
3. You Can Find Out Your Blood Type for Free
If you don’t know your blood type, the Canadian Blood Services offers free blood typing for anyone who wants it. Find the closest Blood Typing Event near you and get your blood tested in only a few minutes. You may have a universal blood type that could help many people in life-threatening situations.
4. Every Unit of Blood Can Save a Life
Have you ever wondered just how far a single unit of blood can go toward saving someone’s life? According to the American Red Cross, almost 36,000 units of blood are needed in the United States every single day. Every unit of blood measures out to 450 ml, but the average car accident victim requires up to 50 times that amount. While almost 40 percent of the US population is eligible to donate blood, less than 10 percent of people actually do. There is a constant need for blood donors, especially from people with blood types O negative and AB positive.
5. Men Who Have Sex With Men Are Eligible to Donate After One Year
Every country’s eligibility requirements are different. In Canada, men who have sex with men are eligible to donate their blood one year after their last sexual encounter. In 2013, that number was five years, and from 1977 to 2013, they were not eligible to donate blood at all. The eligibility period is set to one year because men who have sex with other men represent the largest population of new HIV infections every year.