The month of January is known as National Blood Donor Month to both raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and honor those who take the time to do so.
This awareness event, which has existed since 1970, aptly chose the month of January because it is one of the slowest times of the year for donations. In fact, most blood centers in the United States have a hard time keeping more than a three-day supply of blood for transfusions due to the constant demand.
In commemoration of National Blood Donor Month, we will debunk some common myths related to blood donations and some tips on how to get involved.
Myth 1: Donors can get infected with HIV from giving blood.
It is not possible to get HIV from donating blood as blood collection is highly regulated and safe. Further, while it is possible to become infected with HIV in health care settings, it is extremely rare. According to the aids.gov website, “the risk of getting HIV from receiving blood transfusions, blood products, or organ/tissue transplants that are contaminated with HIV is extremely small because of rigorous testing of the U.S. blood supply and donated organs and tissues.”
Myth 2: Your health is affected by giving blood.
If you are in good health prior to donating blood, you should recover completely in just a day or two. In the hours after donating blood, it is advisable to rest a while and drinking enough liquids to replaces the lost fluid. Your body should replace all the red blood cells within 3 to 4 days, and the white blood cells within three weeks.
Myth 3: There aren’t any age limits on blood donations.
It is recommended that anyone up to 60 years old who is in good health can donate blood.
Myth 4: A donor can know if s/he is HIV positive through a blood donation.
After infection, it can take months for the HIV antibodies to develop. Those who are recently infected may have a negative test result, but yet be able to infect others. It is recommendable for people who are at high risk of HIV infection to not to donate blood.
Now that we have debunked some of the most common myths, here are some quick tips on getting involved in blood donations:
There are several types of blood, and if you are going to donate blood—and in the event of an emergency—it is important to know which type you have. If you are unaware of your blood type, you can ask your parents or get tested at a local laboratory or with your primary health care provider. You can also find out your blood type after donating blood. It might take a while, but the blood bank will be able to tell you your blood type.
- Find your local blood bank.
You can find your nearest blood bank on the Red Cross Blood website.
- Schedule blood donations throughout the year.
According to the Red Cross, you must wait at least eight weeks (56 days) between donations of whole blood and 16 weeks (112 days) between double red cell donations. Platelet apheresis donors may give every 7 days up to 24 times per year.
- Encourage friends and family to donate blood.
Review blood donations information from reliable sources, such as the Red Cross, with friends and families to raise awareness about the importance of blood donation and encourage them to donate.
- Talk about the importance of blood donation through your social media networks.
Share infographics, status updates, and data to spread awareness through your social media contacts.