‘Tis the season for giving — and what better gift than the gift of life? Giving blood can save lives by providing this much-needed resource to patients who require transfusions. But blood donation myths are common and often discourage people from donating.
Many people will need blood or a blood product, such as platelets, at some point in their lives. But only a small percentage of Americans who are eligible to donate blood actually do so. Misinformation and fear discourage people from donating; people often think the process is complicated and painful. However, giving blood is actually a simple — and relatively painless — process.
Here, we’re debunking some common blood donation myths so that you can feel confident about making a deposit at the blood bank this holiday season — and all year round.
Myth: The best time to donate blood is during a disaster.
Although public tragedies can raise awareness about the need for blood, victims in these scenarios are mainly aided by blood that’s already been donated, not emergency donations. A steady supply of blood donations over time makes it possible for those in need to receive transfusions immediately.
Myth: Blood donation takes a long time.
Giving blood doesn’t take long. You’ll answer preliminary questions to ensure your eligibility, and you will have your temperature, blood pressure and pulse checked. The clinician will also check a small drop of your blood to make sure that you have enough red blood cells to donate safely. The actual donation process typically takes less than 10 minutes.
Myth: Very few people can donate blood.
Most people can safely donate blood. There are some restrictions: You must weigh at least 110 pounds, be at least 16 years old, and be in good health. You may not be eligible to donate if you are currently sick, have low iron levels, take certain medications or have traveled outside the U.S. or Canada to a country with a high risk of malaria in the past three years. You can’t donate blood if you’ve ever used intravenous drugs that were not prescribed by a physician, either.
Myth: Giving blood hurts.
You might feel a slight sting or pinch when the clinician inserts the sterile needle into your arm or hand. Some people may feel nauseous or lightheaded or report bruising or pain at the site where the needle was inserted, but most people don’t experience any major problems from donating blood. After the clinician’s done collecting blood, you’ll be given a small snack or juice to help you recover.
Now that we’ve debunked some common blood donation myths, contact the Red Cross to schedule time to give the gift of blood.