Donating blood is a very crucial activity for a social cause, as there are many people all over the world whose survival and their health depends on the donated blood.
Decrease blood levels or blood loss occur as a result of accident or illness, which leads to insufficient nutrients and oxygen all over the body resulting in improper support to vital organs. The donated blood helps immensely in such cases.
Another blood donation process similar to whole blood donation is Apheresis where it provides other blood constituents like platelets. Donating platelets helps with patients who are suffering from blood clotting issues. Platelets can also produce antibodies against various medical conditions including the current pandemic COVID-19.
While it is very clear that donating blood helps millions of people in saving their lives; what is not exactly clear for some people is the advantages and disadvantages of donating blood for the donors.
Advantages of Blood Donation for the Donor
There are many advantages and very few risks of donating blood to the donor.
Feeling of Satisfaction by Contributing to the Society
The primary advantage is the feeling of satisfaction that you get that your donated blood is going to help people save their lives and also cope with their health issues.
According to the American Red Cross, donation of one unit of blood can helps in saving the lives of around three individuals (1).
Blood donors are partaking in an important service towards their community. The knowledge that you are making a positive difference in other people’s lives increases the sense of well-being of the donor.
Early Identification of Medical Conditions
A donor before donating their blood has to undergo a basic blood test and physical examination. These can help in identification of any new health concerns like hypertension, hypotension or anemia. If there is any problem in these basic tests, then the individual will not be able to donate blood and the results of the examination can be used for identifying and treating the problems detected.
Keeps the Blood Donor’s Weight in Check
According to studies, donating blood can burn around 650 calories; although more scientific evidence is needed to prove this (2). The loss in the calories from blood donation is going to be short-term and the weight loss is not sustainable in the long term.
A study in 2012 says that the donor’s weight is checked at the blood donation centers before donating blood and this may help in identification of obesity issues and help can be given to such people with regards to losing weight and other weight related problems (3).
Blood donors who are underweight can also benefit from advice and counseling about healthy nutrition intake and healthy weight gain.
Hemochromatosic Donors Benefit with Decreased Iron Levels after Blood Donation
Production of red blood cells requires iron and about 1 million Americans suffer from type-1 hereditary hemochromatosis (4). Hemochromatosis is a condition where a person has excessive stores of iron in their blood. This excess iron gets stored or deposited into various body organs, such as the heart and liver along with affecting their function too. According to studies, phlebotomy can benefit donors suffering from hemochromatosis, which is a procedure similar to blood donation (5). So, people suffering from hemochromatosis can help other people by donating blood and this is an advantage for the donors, as it also becomes a way of treatment for the hemochromatosic donors.
Better for Cardiovascular Health of the Donor (6)
A research in 2019 showed that about 160,000 women who had donated blood for a decade had a protective effect against cardiovascular disease thanks to their blood donation.
Blood Donation Helps with Donor’s Blood Pressure (7, 8)
According to study, donating blood can help in decreasing blood pressure. A study monitored blood pressure of almost 300 donors donating blood one to four times in a year and about 50% of them suffered from high blood pressure. It was observed that, blood donors with high blood pressure had an improvement in their readings. In fact, more frequently they donated blood, the more was the improvement in their blood pressure levels.
Blood Donation Helps in Recovery of Covid-19 Patients (9)
Covid recovered patients can help other covid patients by donating their blood plasma, which can contain antibodies against the covd-19 virus that helps fight the virus in a person suffering from active covid infection. This gives yet more sense of well-being to the donor that they have helped someone in this covid-19 pandemic.
Better for Overall Health of the Blood Donors (10, 11)
A research has shown that blood donors had about 30% lesser chance of mortality from any cause and around 4 to 5% lesser chance of having cancer thanks to regular blood donation. It was concluded that blood donation benefits the donors’ overall health.
Another study showed that, with each yearly donation, the blood donor’s risk of death from any cause reduced by about 7.5%. More research is, however, needed to definitely confirm this. One thing is for certain, donating blood does not reduce a person’s life span.
Advantages of Donating Blood to the Recipients (12)
Donating blood helps people suffering from various medical conditions that include:
- People suffering from sickle cell disease or any disease, which affects their blood, benefit from donated blood.
- People having external or internal bleeding from accidents or surgery benefit from donated blood.
- The blood donated helps patients who are undergoing cancer treatment.
- The blood donated helps patients suffering from inherited blood disorder or undergoing any surgery.
- Patients who are in need of treatment that require plasma donation or other blood products.
- Patients undergoing a transplant need blood transfusion.
Disadvantages for Blood Donors from Blood Donation
Donating blood is generally safe, as long the standard protocols are followed at the blood donation centers.
Some of the Safety precautions taken by these blood donation centers include:
- Always using new needles for each donor.
- Screening the blood donors for any pre-existing medical problems.
- Monitoring the blood donors and providing them refreshments for better recovery.
- Having a professional and experienced staff for blood donation.
Despite all the above precautions, there can be some potential disadvantages for the donors after donating blood and these include:
Temporary Reactions in the Donor and Ways to Resolve Them
In some cases, the blood donor will have some temporary and mild side effects after blood donation and these are: dizziness, weakness, nausea, lightheadedness, bruising, bleeding from needle site. These effects often resolve within 24 hours.
Methods to cut down on these effects after donating blood consist of eating balanced meals over the next couple of days and drinking plenty of fluids.
Some of the food items, which improve the blood donors’ iron levels, are: spinach, red meat and iron-fortified cereals and juices.
Adverse Effects of Blood Donation in the Donor (13)
Adverse effects of blood donation are extremely rare and consist of: muscle contractions; hypotension; difficulty in breathing; vomiting; fainting and convulsions.
Younger donors with less weight are more likely to be affected with these adverse reactions after donating blood; especially if they are first time blood donors.
Effect of Blood Donation on the Sports Performance of the Donor (14)
According to studies, it is said that there can be a decrease in the athletic performance of the donor after donating blood. This is thought to occur because of the affect of blood donation on iron levels and the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. However, there is no sufficient evidence to support this claim.
Steps To Be Ensured Before Blood Donation to Avoid Adverse Reactions in the Donor
There are certain requirements, which need to be met before donating blood to ensure the donor does not suffer from any adverse effects:
- The donor’s overall health should be good.
- The donor should not suffer from existing health conditions, like HIV or hepatitis.
- The donor should inform if he/she has had a tattoo or recently traveled somewhere.
- The donor should meet the weight and age requirements.
- Upon donating platelets; the donor should not take aspirin in the last 48 hours.
- The donor should be questioned with regards to any use of intravenous recreational drug use.
- If the donor is a diabetic, then how are they managing this condition.
- All these and more factors affect the ability to donate blood and the after-effects of blood donation.
To replenish the plasma, the body needs only 24 hours; whereas, to replace the blood after donation, the body can take about a month to month and a half (15). So, a person cannot go for blood donation more than once every two months.
American Red Cross says, in America, there is requirement of blood every 2 seconds. About 6.8 million Americans donate blood every year; however, the number seems to be reducing, which is a cause for concern.
There is no doubt that donating blood is a rewarding and worthwhile activity, which carries very less risk and many advantages. So, one should always try to donate blood and encourage others to do so, as long as they are meeting the requirements for blood donation. If all the protocols are followed, then there is no harm to the donor; in fact the advantages of donating blood greatly outweigh the disadvantages, which are next to nothing.