Giving blood saves 4.5 million lives each year in the U.S., yet fewer than 1 out of 10 people in the U.S. donate. Donating blood is safe, quick, and easy, but fear of needles, feeling weak, or believing others are donating enough keep people away. Please don’t stay away! We dug up some information to get you more comfortable with the blood donation process.
- How much blood do I lose? As an adult, you have 8 to 12 pints of blood in your body. When you give a unit (1 pint) of blood, your body will replenish the entire amount you’ve lost.
- Side effects. Most donors do not experience side effects. In one survey of 5,000 donors, only 1 percent experienced a minor reaction – usually irritation on the skin due to improper needle insertion.
- Weakness. A very small number of people feel weak right after donating, but this typically passes after a few minutes. Weakness can be avoided by coming to the donation center with a full stomach and a good night’s rest.
- How long does it take? The entire donation process only takes about 10 minutes and can be repeated every 8 weeks.
- There is absolutely a blood shortage. Both the Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers (ABC) frequently report blood shortages in cities across the nation. According to ABC News, the Red Cross needs 80,000 units on hand daily, but only has about 36,000.
Whose Lives You’ll Save
Each unit you donate (about 1 pint) can be divided into the three primary components — red blood cells, plasma, and platelets — saving up to three lives. Here’s a list of the 5 common lifesaving transfusions and how much blood they require.
1. Car Accidents (50 or more units of blood) 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads last year. Nearly half of those injuries were considered serious injuries that required medical attention. The numbers are up from previous years, largely because drivers today use smart phones to text, check emails, take selfies, and use social media — all from behind the wheel.
2. Organ Transplants (up to 50 units) Those receiving organ transplants will need varying levels of blood transfusions. A liver transplant will require the most blood at up to 50 units, while other organ transplants require about 10 units.
3. Trauma Patients (up to 50 units) Bleeding after an injury is responsible for over 2 million deaths per year worldwide. Trauma patients need timely attention to avoid a preventable death due to loss of blood; the majority of deaths in trauma patients happen within the first 24 hours of the trauma. A trauma patient may need up to 50 units of red blood cells alone, with additional units of plasma and platelets.
4. Bone Marrow Transplants (45 units) Bone marrow transplants are done to cure a range of diseases, including immune deficiency disorders and several types of cancer. A bone marrow transplant patient needs up to 20 units of red blood cells and 25 units of platelets.
5. Burn Victims (20 units) When burns are superficial, blood volume can return to normal after 24 hours. However, for moderate to severe burn victims, the red blood cells level will decrease, and a blood transfusion is required.
How to Donate Now
As you can see, it takes 50 people to provide enough blood to help a major accident or trauma patient, and the blood donations of 20 people to help a burn victim.
The Red Cross, which supplies 40 percent of our country’s blood supply, makes donation convenient with frequent mobile blood drives and multiple donation centers that supply blood to 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide. Find one close to you by entering your zip code at Red Cross Blood Services Regions or Where to Donate Blood.