Personal Finance

5 Blood Donating Myths that Aren't True

Do you know a woman who's given birth, a cancer patient or anyone who's had emergency or cardiac surgery? They may well have needed blood. Here we dispel 3 blood donating myths that aren't true and explain all you need to know about giving blood to help save a life—or three.

Each time you donate blood, you can save up to three people in need of red blood cells, platelets or plasma. In 2017/18, 822,517 adults in England and Wales donated at least once—that's 1 in 49 adults. If you're thinking of becoming a donor, read below to find answers to your questions or go to NHS Blood and Transplant or my.blood.co.uk.

Those who give frequently help to maintain a steady supply of blood. This is especially important given the limited shelf life of the blood, which varies by component:

How Long Can Blood be Stored?
Red blood cellsUp to 35 days
PlateletsUp to 7 days
PlasmaUp to 3 years

3 Blood Donating Myths That Aren't True

  • 1. Myth: Donating blood takes a long time. In fact, it takes less than 1 hour to donate blood (the actual donation only takes 5 to 10 minutes - the rest of the time is spent getting settled and eating biscuits).
  • 2. Myth: Donating my blood won't make much of a difference. Each donation can help or save up to 3 people. 6% of blood donations help women who've lost blood during childbirth, 27% are used during surgery and 67% help medical conditions like anaemia and cancer.
  • Myth 3: You can't give blood if you have a tattoo. You can give blood 4 months after getting a tattoo or body piercing.
  • Myth 4: You can't give blood if you've travelled abroad. This depends on the countries you visit, but in most cases you can continue to give blood even if you leave the the country frequently.
  • 3. Myth: You might faint if you give blood. There's only a 1 in 625 chance of fainting after blood donation.
Infographic about Blood Donation in the UK

What are the Steps to Donate Blood?

In order to give blood, you first need to check your eligibility, register and book a slot (walk-in slots are sometimes available but there's no guarantee). Before you give:

  1. Check you can give blood (https://www.blood.co.uk/who-can-give-blood/)

  2. Register (https://my.blood.co.uk/preregister)

  3. Book a slot (https://my.blood.co.uk/Account/SignIn)

Men can give blood every 12 weeks and women can give blood every 16 weeks. In terms of eligibility, most people can give blood if they're:

  • Fit and healthy
  • Between 7 stone 12 lbs and 25 stone (50kg and 160kg)
  • Aged 17 and 66 years old
  • Over 70 if you've given blood in the last two years

There are some restrictions for those who've had an infection, been on antibiotics, travelled recently, etc. For example, you should wait 14 days after having an infection or treatment with antibiotics before giving blood. For information on travel to different countries, see: https://my.blood.co.uk/knowledgebase/travel

How Long You Need to Wait to Give Blood After...
Giving birth6 months
Antiobiotics/infection14 days
Dental checkup or filling24 hours
Tattoo or piercing4 months
TravelCountry Specific

What Actually Happens When I Donate Blood?

Typically, an entire donation session lasts less than an hour—but the actual blood donation only lasts 10 minutes or so. Here's what a normal session looks like:

  • In a Private Health Screening you'll confirm your identity and answer confidential questions based on your Donor Health Check form.
  • A small blood sample will be taken from your finger to ensure you have enough haemoglobin (iron) in your blood.
  • You'll be settled into a special reclining chair with a blood pressure cuff on your arm to maintain pressure during the donation.
  • Your arm will be cleaned with an antiseptic sponge to kill germs on the skin, and the needle will be inserted.
  • You may hear beeps from the agitator scale as it weighs and measures your donation. A full donation is 470ml and usually takes 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Plus, they feed you juice and biscuits!

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