Five million people in the United States get blood transfusions each year. Thirty-six thousand units of red blood cells, 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are transfused each day. More than 6.8 million donors supply 13.6 million units collected, which can be split up and used for multiple types of transfusions. But despite these large numbers, blood shortages still occur: 38% of the population is eligible to donate but less than 10% do so. The biggest reason people don’t donate is that the thought of doing so never occurs to them.
Reasons why people may be ineligible to donate include anemia, hepatitis B or C, HIV or being at high risk for having HIV, and travel to destinations with high risk of infectious exposures. With some exceptions, those taking regular medications are generally eligible to donate blood. Prescription blood thinners (e.g., Coumadin, Eliquis, Xarelto, Pradaxa, Plavix) and prostate medications (e.g., Avodart, Propecia, Proscar) are examples of prohibited medications. Those undergoing estrogen replacement therapy are not prevented from donating.
“Blood donation takes less than 90 minutes and is an easy way to help others.”
If you have had basal and squamous cell cancers removed within the past 12 months you are still eligible to donate. Blood cancers cause ineligibility, but other cancers that have not recurred for 12 months after completing treatment are acceptable. If you have controlled diabetes and high blood pressure, you are also eligible to donate.
People with congestive heart disease are generally excluded from donating. However, those with coronary heart disease may be acceptable donors if there have been no symptoms, heart attack, bypass operation or angioplasty for six months. At one time, it was thought that donating blood decreased one’s cardiac risk. Unfortunately, this theory has not held up in clinical trials. People with heart disease should consult their physician prior to donation.
This is a brief list of criteria and by no means exhaustive. Blood donation takes less than 90 minutes and is an easy way to help others.