What you should know about blood donation

What you should know about blood donation
What you should know about blood donation

Africa-Press – Uganda. Tomorrow, World Blood Donor Day will be observed under the theme, “Donating blood is an act of solidarity.” This comes amid concerted efforts in Uganda to mobilise blood donation to meet the increasing demand for blood transfusion.

While it is not common for many people in Uganda to donate blood, Brian Ssennoga, 35, has donated blood more than 54 times. This comes down to every three months or four times a year. He says it is a habit everyone who is eligible should adopt to save lives.

“I actually keep my donation card in a place where I can easily see it and this acts as a reminder,” he says.

What motivates him to continue donating blood is the fact that he not only saves lives, his mental health is also given a boost. On the day he donates, he takes breakfast and carries a bottle of water sweetened with honey.

“After the donation, I rest for about 10 minutes then continue with my work. Sometimes I even go to the gym but only do lighter exercises. As long as I am eligible, I will always donate blood. I may not know who gets to use my blood but I am happy to save a life,” Ssennoga adds.

Dr Henry Ddungu, a haematologist at Mulago National Referral Hospital, says blood donation is a gesture of kindness that also gives inner satisfaction. While many people fear that the process is painful, Dr Ddungu says the only pain one will feel is the prick of the needle used to draw blood.

Types of donors

The commonest and most flexible type of blood donation is when one donates Whole blood. Here, a pint of blood, (about 450ml) is removed. The commonest recipients of this type of blood are those who require whole blood transfusion. Such a donor can donate up to six times a year since blood is replenished in eight weeks’ time.

With the advancement in medical technology, it is now possible for one to donate only particular components of blood through a process called apheresis. Blood is composed of the liquid (plasma) and solid (white and red blood cells and platelets) components.

Platelet donation allows one to donate platelets and the other unused components are returned to the donor. Platelets are the blood component that stop bleeding by clumping and forming clots in blood vessels and can be used to treat cancer such as leukemia and also used for chemotherapy, a treatment of cancer.

They can also be donated to patients with clotting problems, those undergoing organ transplants, or major surgeries. Platelets donations can be made every seven days and up to 24 times per year.

Plasma donation

Plasma is the liquid in which the red and white blood cells and the platelets are suspended. Blood plasma transports nutrients, hormones, and proteins to parts of the body where they are needed. It also guides movement of blood elements through the circulatory system.

Donated plasma is commonly given to patients in emergency and trauma situations to help stop bleeding as plasma helps blood clot. It also contains antibodies that help fight off infections. Plasma can be separated from whole blood by removing the red and white blood cells and platelets.

This is done by spinning the blood at a high speed in a centrifuge and after the solids are forced to the bottom of the container, the plasma is collected off the top. Plasma can be donated after two weeks.

Double red cell donation allows a donor to donate a concentrated amount of red blood cells. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to organs and tissues. Donated red blood cells are given to people with severe blood loss such as after an injury, or accident and patients diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia. A gap of 16 weeks is recommended between double red cell donations.


To donate blood, a person should be healthy, be 17 to 65 years of age, weigh above 50kg, have a blood haemoglobin level of 12.5g/dl and have normal blood pressure. Before blood is drawn, health workers make an assessment by taking your health history to ensure that you have more than enough blood to donate.

Dr Ddungu says if one is taking aspirin and antibiotics, then they should donate blood at least a week after they have completed the medication.

“Someone taking antibiotics could have a bacterial infection which can be passed on to the recipient. It is, therefore, advisable that this person waits for some time before donating,” he says.

Pregnant women, children and the elderly above 65 are not eligible to donate since they are prone to becoming anaemic. If you are on a particular type of medication but want to donate blood, it is important that you consult your physician before you do.

Myths busted

An individual cannot contract infections during the donation process since facilities have strict procedures to ensure the safety of all donors. Also, a new sterile needle is used for each donor, which minimises any risk of infection.

Donating blood does not compromise the donor’s blood level because only a pint equivalent to 450ml of blood is taken. Some people may feel light headed a bit but this stops once the person rests for about 15 minutes.

“If a person feels dizzy after donating blood, it is because the body is trying to adjust to the little change in the blood level. Such a person should lie on their back and raise the legs to increase blood flow to the head,” Dr Ddungu advises.

After donating, a healthy body makes new blood to replenish what is lost. He emphasises taking enough liquids to enable the body replace the donated fluid within a few hours and only a few days are needed to replace all of the red and white blood cells drawn during the procedure.

In case of any bleeding after removing the bandage, put pressure on the site and keep the arm raised until the bleeding stops.

Before donating blood

No smoking and drinking. It is important to keep your body and blood clean before you donate. It is a strict rule to not consume or put your body through any kind of drug abuse for 12 hours prior to your blood donation period. The consumption of cigarettes and alcohol also makes your body slightly weak, which can further cause complications while or after your blood donation.

Keep yourself hydrated

The next step to a successful donation is drinking plenty of water. Drinking water is a necessity for all of us, but when you are donating this is even more true. Water hydrates your veins, making them more visible to your phlebotomist and also helps your body recover after donating.

Watch what you eat

Iron is an important mineral your body uses to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of iron-rich foods can help you store extra iron. If you do not have enough iron stored away to make up for the iron you lose when donating blood, you can develop iron deficiency anemia.

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