Everything You Need To Know About Donating Blood

It's National Blood Donation Week, so if you've ever wanted to become a donor but don't know what's involved -- we've got you covered!

There's no doubt Aussies are a generous bunch with their blood, with last year seeing a whopping 1.3 million donations across the country.

That's one every 25 seconds.

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But with donated blood only lasting 42 days, there's always a demand for new donors. If you've never donated blood before, then what better time to get involved than on National Blood Donation Week?

And if you have no idea how to go about donating, don't stress 'cos we've got everything you need to know so you can book your appointment -- and potentially save someone's life -- ASAP.

Types of Donations
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There are three types of blood donation -- whole blood, plasma or platelets. Each type is used for different medical treatments, and your blood type determines which donation is best for you to make.

For example, those with the rarest blood type, AB-, would be of most use donating plasma or whole blood -- while those with O+ type, who are known as 'universal donors', have the versatility to donate blood, plasma or platelets.

  • Whole Blood This is when whole blood is collected straight from a donor without anything taken out. After it's donated, it's separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets.
  • Plasma Plasma is the straw-coloured liquid that carries your red and white blood cells and platelets. With your blood being 55 percent plasma, this can be harvested through a process called apheresis and used in 18 different ways, from treating burns and cancer to protecting people with brain and nerve diseases.
  • Platelets Platelets are the tiny 'plates' in the blood that help to clot and reduce bleeding. Platelets are always in demand and are hugely important to people with low platelet counts, such as cancer patients, surgery patients, and those suffering from liver disease.
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There are a huge number of health and lifestyle factors that can exclude some people from donating both permanently or for a specific period of time. We've covered some factors below, but if you're unsure if you're ineligible, call Australian Red Cross on 13 14 95.

  1. Age

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    Up until recently, the minimum age for whole blood donation in Australia was 16 years. It's now 18.  As for maximum age, you're able to donate whole blood up until your 71st birthday if you're a new donor, while existing donors who have donated in Australia and meet eligibility criteria can donate whole blood up to their 81st birthday. New donors can donate plasma up to age 70, while only existing male whole blood donors aged up to 70 years are able to donate platelets. If you’re already a plasma or platelet donor in Australia you can donate up to age 81.

Health Conditions

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A health screen during your consultation will provide you with more details as to whether or not you're eligible to donate blood, but generally, some health conditions can affect whether or not you can able donate blood.

Taking anti-depressants, having suffered a heart attack, or having epilepsy should not affect your ability to donate.

Having leukaemia or lymphoma, a recent history of influenza, having had a stroke, or being pregnant can impact whether you can donate.

For more detailed information on whether your health condition affects if you can give blood, click here. 

  • Lifestyle factors
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As many know, whether you've recently had a tattoo or piercing can affect your eligibility. Check out some of the general guidelines below.

Tattoos: You’ll need to wait four months after getting the tattoo before you can donate. This also applies to cosmetic tattooing.

Sexual activity: If you have any reason to believe you may have acquired an infection through unprotected sex, you should not donate.

Prison: You need to wait 12 months from the date you leave before you can donate. This applies if you have spent more than 72 hours in lockup.

Transgender: There are no restrictions based on your gender identity, the screening process may just be tweaked based on where you are in your transition. There are, however, restrictions on male-to-male sexual contact.

Men who have sex with men: If you identify as a male and have had sexual intercourse with another man in the last 12 months you will be unable to donate. This also applies to trans women and trans men.

Lived in the UK: The Blood Service currently can’t take blood donations from people who lived in the UK for six months or more between 1980–1996.

Recent travel: In most cases, yes. However, you may have to wait from four weeks to four months before you can donate.

Before Donation
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First off, you can make an appointment by heading here. 

The day before your appointment, make sure to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water as your blood volume goes down when you donate.

It's also useful to eat something salty in the 24 hours before, as you lose about three grams of salt with each donation, and increasing your salt intake will help you restore your blood volume more rapidly.

Also, be ready to say what medications you’re currently taking and make sure you have your ID since you’ll need to bring one or more documents to your appointment that show your name, date of birth, address, signature and photo.

Day of Donation
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On the morning of your donation, eat a healthy -- preferably savoury -- meal prior, and try to avoid fatty foods like hamburgers, french fries or ice cream.

For a plasma or platelet donation, have three large glasses of water during the three hours before the appointment, and for whole blood donation, have two large glasses of water in the three hours prior, and another two glasses when you arrive.

Following your donation, you'll get to relax with a drink and a biscuit.

After Donation
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For the first two hours, it's recommended you avoid smoking.

In the following six hours, be sure to hydrate by drinking at least three glasses of water, while also avoiding strenuous exercise like riding, jogging or going to the gym.

It's also suggested you avoid standing for long periods, such as in long queues or standing on crowded public transport. It's also important to avoid overheating by standing in direct sun, or by drinking hot drinks.

For at least eight hours after your donation, avoid drinking alcohol.

For more detailed information on giving blood, head to the Australian Red Cross Blood Donation Service's website or call them directly on 13 14 95. 

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