June 14 is celebrated each year as World Blood Donor’s Day. The aim of this campaign is to “raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion and of the critical contribution voluntary, unpaid blood donors make to national health systems” (World Health Organization). In 2021, the slogan of World Blood Donor Day is “Give blood and keep the world beating”. It reinforces the call to people across the world to donate blood regularly and keep the world pulsating by saving lives and improving the health and quality of life of those who need transfusion. It is heartening to note that donors in many countries have continued to donate blood and plasma throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite limited mobility and other challenges.
Different Types of Blood Donations
Every year, blood donation saves the lives of millions of people in the United States. There are four ways to donate blood based on its components: whole blood, platelets, automated red cells and plasma. These components are separated during and after blood donation and given to patients depending on their needs.
Whole Blood: This is the most common and flexible type of donation, which can be made by all blood types. Whole blood can be donated every 56 days. It can be given in its original form or separated into its components – red cells, plasma and platelets. Trauma patients and people undergoing surgery may need whole blood.
Platelets: Platelets are made in the marrow and help stop or prevent bleeding. This component is given to people who have surgeries, organ transplants, cancer, and life threatening injuries. The shelf life of platelets is only 5 days and donations can be made every 7 days, up to 24 times a year.
Automated Red Cells: This type of donation separates the donor’s red blood cells from the other blood components via an automated process. Plasma and platelets are safely returned to the donor. Those who need automated red cells include trauma patients, people suffering from blood loss, newborns, emergency transfusions during birth, and people with sickle cell anemia. Donations can be made every 112 days up to 3 times a year.
Plasma: This component transports water and nutrients to the body’s tissues and is used to treat patients in emergency situations to stop bleeding. Donation frequency is every 28 days, up to 13 times/year.
Spotlight on Role of Youth in Blood Donation
This year, Blood Donor Day highlights the role of young people in ensuring a safe blood supply. Young people make up a large segment of the population in many countries and are at the forefront of campaigns aimed at safe voluntary, non-remunerated blood donations. WHO announced that the specific objectives of the 2021 Blood Donor Day campaign are to:
- thank blood donors in the world and create wider public awareness of the need for regular, unpaid blood donation;
- promote the community values of blood donation in enhancing community solidarity and social cohesion;
- encourage youth to embrace the humanitarian call to donate blood and inspire others to do the same;
- celebrate the potential of youth as partners in promoting health.
The campaign also provides an opportunity to call upon governments and national health authorities to make sure that adequate resources, systems and infrastructures are in place to increase the collection of blood from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors.
It is also important that every country has supplies of blood and blood products that are as safe as possible, available at reasonable cost and sufficient to meet the needs of its people. According to WHO, blood safety implies:
- collecting safer donations from low-risk blood donors
- testing all blood for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other transfusion-transmissible infections before transfusion, and
- minimizing unnecessary blood transfusions
Health Benefits for Blood Donors
Donating blood can save lives, but donors also enjoy many health benefits. According to a Mental Health Foundation report, helping others can reduce stress, improve your mental and physical well-being and health, reduce a sense of isolation, and help eliminate negative feelings. When you donate blood, you will have a simple physical examination and blood test before giving blood, which could identify health issues as well as body weight-related concerns. Medical News Today references a 2019 study which reported that blood donation offers a “protective effect of long-term, high-frequency blood donation against cardiovascular disease. Research has also found evidence of improved blood pressure readings in blood donors.
According to the American Red Cross, one donation can save as many as three lives, and someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds. Make World Blood Donor Day a success – Give Blood and Keep the World Beating!