Donating blood? Here’s what to expect

Donating blood? Here’s what to expect

Yes, you can still donate blood during the pandemic. But, there are a few more steps to take before the actual donation can occur.

And no, it isn’t risky. In fact, medical experts say that now, in the midst of a pandemic, it is more important to keep the country’s blood supply on high. 

Safety

Medical professionals, particularly those who work with bodily fluids, are well-trained in hygiene and sterilisation practices, even before COVID-19. The environment in which your blood is drawn needs to be sterilised, so you are most likely in a clean space and don’t need to worry.

“Maintaining adequate levels of our nation’s blood supply is critical,” the Food and Drug Administration said in March. “People who donate blood are equivalent to those people who are working in a critical infrastructure industry. In volunteering to do so, they are contributing immeasurably to the public health of our nation.”

Stanford infectious disease doctor Anne Liu, MD, told POP Sugar that social distance from a healthcare provider who’s drawing your blood isn’t feasible, so it might feel risky to donate right now. However, given the extra COVID-19 precautions, “It should be quite safe. People who take blood for donation, people who are in a healthcare setting, are accustomed to using sterile techniques.”

Screening

You will need to undergo a screening test before entering the clinic, though. Also, legally, everyone should be wearing a mask in all public spaces. 

Make an appointment for a donation. The person who answers the call will ask you COVID-19-screening questions to establish if it is safe for you to come through to the donation drive. If there is a walk-in drive, you will need to line up outside the door, practising social distancing (the demarcated social-distancing lines for each person to stand on should be marked on the ground outside of the facility).

You will be asked the following questions during the screening:

  1. Have you been in contact with anyone who has had COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
  2. Have you had any COVID-19-related symptoms in the last few days, including a scratchy throat, runny nose, lack of taste, lack of smell etc?
  3. Have you travelled out of the country in the last few weeks?

You will also be asked if they can take your temperature.

General rules

Besides the extra stress of COVID-19, there are still the usual protocols that will be in place when you go and donate blood. 

Staff will be dressed in protective gear. They will wear fresh gloves with each donor and all needles and medical equipment will be new or sterilised with the proper, medical-grade chemicals. 

The first step in donating, especially if it is your first time, is registration. You will sign in, show your ID, and will be asked to read some required information. 

Then, explains Red Cross Blood, you will be subjected to health history and mini-physical Besides the screening, you will be asked some questions online or in a private interview about your general health for the last year or so, and will receive a general health check.

Then the actual donation will take place. You will be seated when the blood is drawn. Afterward, you will usually be given a sugar snack like a cookie and some juice. 

The actual donation only takes 8-10 minutes, and the entire donation process takes about an hour.

Not everyone can donate blood

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to donate blood, iER explains. This may be owing to a temporary issue like pregnancy or being on a course of certain drugs. Or you may suffer from a degenerative, or infectious disease, for example, Aids sufferers cannot donate blood. 

Provided there are no complications, the waiting period after a major operation is six months. If you have received blood or blood products, you may not donate for six months.

Blood types 

O is the universal blood type. Those with type AB Rh D positive blood are called universal recipients.

What does this mean?

The O blood type can be used by any recipient, no matter the recipient’s blood type. In transfusions of packed red blood cells, individuals with type O Rh D negative blood are often called universal donors. The four major groups are determined by whether or not they have two antigens, commonly known as A and B. Each of these antigens has an Rh factor, a positive or a negative. That’s what leads to the commonly known blood types A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, AB-.

People of all blood types are encouraged to donate blood.

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