Giving Blood Safely, What You Can Expect

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Giving blood is a valuable service to society, providing blood not only for those who require surgery but also insuring that those injured in disasters like floods, hurricanes and tornadoes – or in war-torn countries like Syria – receive needed blood even when the demand is very high.

According to the World Health Organization, at least half of the more than 112 million blood donations collected yearly come from developed nations, which are home to only about 20 percent of the world’s population.

In poorer countries, more than half these blood transfusions go to children under five years of age, so you can see that giving blood is a very good deed indeed, providing a lifeline to those who can’t help themselves.

Giving Blood is Safe

Giving blood is also  safe. Phlebotomists are trained personnel who know the danger signs when a person gives blood. In fact, this is the reason behind the elaborate and timely screening process when giving blood. Not only do phlebotomists need to rule out candidates who may be in danger if giving blood, but they need to be sure that the blood drawn is safe for other humans who may need it.

The program becomes even more rigorous when phlebotomists work in hospitals, clinics and laboratories. These people will train anywhere from eight weeks to six months, depending on previous training and abilities, and will focus not only on the health and stability of the patient giving blood, but the perishability of blood itself.

Finally, because contaminated blood can be a biohazard, both to the phlebotomist and others exposed to it, training covers the safe handling of blood samples that may contain dangerous or even lethal viruses like Ebola. This is why many phlebotomists are licensed practical nurses, or nurses-in-training.

Giving Blood is Documented and Regimented

Before you give blood, whether to agencies like the Red Cross for use in public emergencies, or for blood plasma, or in the doctor’s office to determine if you have a disease or defect, you will be asked to provide confidential medical information.

This information is always kept private, under very strict HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) regulations, operated under the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services via the Office for Civil Rights, or OCR.

Privacy is guaranteed, simply because it is very important, even indispensable, that blood donors reveal any and all condition which may affect the safety and efficacy of their blood. This includes possible exposure to the HIV virus and, more recently, the Zika virus.

Reasons You May Not Be Allowed To Give Blood

If you have had an infection within the last two weeks, or finished a course of antibiotics within the last week, you will not be allowed to give blood. This is called being “deferred”. You can’t give blood if you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, or if you have certain types of cancer. And, while medication use itself is not a bar to giving blood, if you are using Accutane, Claravis, Propecia, Proscar, or Sotret, you will have to wait 30 days from the last dose. If you are on blood thinners like warfarin or heparin, you should not donate for your own safety.  

If your family has a documented history of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, or mad cow disease in humans), you will never be allowed to give blood.  

If you are gay and have had oral or anal sex with another man, you will have to wait 12 months. If you are female and learn that your male partner has had sex with another man, you will also be deferred for 12 months. This is also true for anyone who has had sex with a commercial sex worker (i.e., a male, female or transgender adult who exchange money or product for sexual services).

You will also be deferred (for a year, or permanently) if you:

  • Have, or have had, hepatitis or jaundice, babesiosis, or Chagas disease
  • Use (or used) illegal injection drugs
  • Ever received clotting factor concentrates for hemophilia
  • Spent three months or more in the UK or the EU from 1980 through 1996, or received a blood transfusion there, or in France, from 1980 to the present

In addition, if you have certain debilitating or crippling diseases, or are not in good general health, you will be deferred, but this is not a reason to evade the truth during initial and follow-up blood donor interviews. The public blood supply is vital to the nation’s health and survival, and contamination can cause thousands of vials of blood to be destroyed – hopefully not before or during a major crisis involving extensive injuries or illness.

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