Tuesday, June 14, 2011

World Blood Donor Day: 5 reasons to give blood

Today is World Blood Donor Day, and also National Blood Donor Week if you live in Canada. If you've ever considered giving blood, maybe now is the time to visit a website to find out more, or pick up the phone to make an appointment.

  • If you're in Canada, call 1 888 2 DONATE ( 1 888 236 6283), or visit the Canadian Blood Services website.
  • If you're in the United States, you can call 1800 RED CROSS (1 800 733 2767) or visit the Red Cross website.
I don't often use this blog to get on a soap box and promote good causes (unless it has to do with using hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes on flights maybe...), but I have written about donating blood before, because it's something I feel strongly about.

And today I'm taking time out from travel topics and tips to promote that cause again.

5 reasons to give blood
  1. You can save a life, or more than one. Blood is used every day, everywhere in the health care system. It's needed for cancer treatment, liver transplants, to treat victims of gunshots and traffic accidents, and many other medical procedures.
  2. It's relatively easy, as far as donations go: the whole process takes about an hour, and is relatively painless (the nurses I've encountered are all extremely good at what they do). Not everyone is eligible to donate, and the restrictions and rules vary from country to country, so check with your local blood donor organization.
  3. It doesn't cost you anything, except some blood that you'll replenish in about a week.
  4. You might inspire your kids. My dad was a blood donor when I grew up and I know it inspired me to become one when I got older. If you have children, this is one way of showing to them that needles are not dangerous, and that you can help other people by volunteering just a little bit of time and some bodily fluid.
  5. Selfish reasons: giving blood gives you a quick and easy health checkup every six weeks. You get your blood pressure, temperature and hemoglobin level checked (meaning the level of iron in your blood). In Canada, you also get cookies afterwards.
As I mentioned, the rules for blood donation vary from country to country. In Canada, there are many restrictions on who can donate blood, depending for example on where you were born, where you grew up, and diseases you've had.

The requirements for basic eligibility to become a donor in Canada include that you have to be at least 17 years old, generally in good health, and weigh at least 50 kg (110 lb). There is also a questionnaire to fill in to check if you are eligible.

If you are a donor, you can donate every 56 days, but there are times when you are told  not to donate. For example:
  • if you have spent time in an area that has a risk of malaria, you will be ineligible to donate for 1-3 years, depending on how long you were there
  • if you've had dental work, you might have to wait 24-72 hours to donate
  • if you've had any piercings or tattoos, you can't donate for 6 months
Check with your local blood donor service to find out if you can donate, where you can start giving if you're eligible, and if there are other ways of helping out.

There's lots of material online if you want to find out more about blood donations, for example:
Like the Canadian Blood Services' tagline says: it's in you to give.

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