On the Pulse

Blood Donation: Eight Things to Know

1.27.2016 | Heather Cooper

January marks National Blood Donor Month, a time to encourage people to become blood donors and celebrate those who already give the gift of life through blood donation.

In the U.S., someone needs donated blood about every two seconds. The need for new donations is constant as blood is only usable for a limited amount of time – donated red blood cells must be used within 42 days of collection, platelets within 5 days, and plasma can be frozen for up to one year. Our nation’s blood supply is often dangerously low during the winter months due to donors’ busy holiday schedules, seasonal illnesses and bad weather. Children and adults being treated for cancer, surgery patients, victims of accidents and other ill people all rely on donated blood. In fact, blood transfusions are the most frequently performed medical procedure people have during hospital stays.

Dr. Meghan Delaney, Medical Director of Transfusion Services at Seattle Children’s, emphasizes the importance of blood donors.

“Blood donation is a humanitarian act that can help to save lives,” Delaney said. “Our patients at Seattle Children’s receive more than 10,000 transfusions per year. It’s because of generous blood donors that this level of care is possible.”

Considering giving blood? Here are eight things to know:

  • Blood donors give about one pint of blood during an appointment, which can help save the lives of three people. Each pint of blood is separated into platelets, plasma and red blood cells, maximizing the lifesaving potential of each unit of blood.
  • Giving blood is quick. It usually takes less than one hour for the whole process, which includes registration, answering health history questions, a brief health check (blood pressure, temperature, pulse and iron level), about 10 minutes of blood collection, then drinking juice and eating cookies.
  • Giving blood is easy. Most people just feel a pinch when the needle is first inserted and nothing during the rest of the collection process.
  • Giving blood is safe. A new, sterile, disposable needle is used for each donation, so you cannot get AIDS from donating blood.
  • Most people 18 and older who are in good general health and weigh at least 110 pounds can donate blood. In most states, 16 and 17 year olds can donate with parental consent if they meet certain weight requirements. Contact the local blood donation center for details.
  • Donors can safely give blood every 56 days, or give platelets every seven days (up to 24 times a year).
  • While donating a pint of blood burns about 650 calories, donors report that the real win is the feeling they get from knowing they’re helping their community.
  • It’s easy to find a place to donate near you. Visit Bloodworks Northwest, formerly known as Puget Sound Blood Center, or call 1-800-398-7888 if you live in the Pacific Northwest. If you live outside of the Pacific Northwest, visit America’s Blood Centers or call 1-888-USBLOOD.

Seattle Children’s Receives and Gives

Seattle Children’s is one of about 90 hospitals in the Pacific Northwest who receive lifesaving blood from Bloodworks Northwest. While Seattle Children’s depends on Bloodworks Northwest to supply the blood needed for patients, the hospital also holds blood drives throughout the year, encouraging staff and patient families to contribute to the region’s supply. In 2015, Seattle Children’s blood drives collected 570 units of blood for Bloodworks Northwest.

If you’re already a blood donor, consider taking the next step and organizing a blood drive in your community.