Health Matters – Blood Donor Week

It may not have been marked on your calendar, but this week (June 13-19) has been National Blood Donor Week in Canada. During this time, Canadian Blood Services has been raising awareness about donating blood, plasma, platelets, and bone and stem cell marrow. Even more importantly, it is extending the call to all eligible Canadians: others need your generosity in order to live.

The Crisis

It is estimated that approximately one in two Canadians can donate usable blood. However ?this year, only 1 in 60 has? done so, notes Canadian Blood Services. This means that people in need of blood may be in crisis in the future. Although Canadian blood donors are traditionally generous, there is great need for even more donated blood. Currently, there are only 100,000 registered blood donors in Canada; Canadian Blood Services hopes to reach 500,000 in the next three years.

Additionally, those donors do not necessarily match the blood needs of Canadians. Only seven per cent of registered blood donors are of ethnic origin, yet statistically, over twenty per cent of Canadians fit this demographic. Canadian Blood Services underscores the importance of more blood donors from cultural groups like Chinese, South Asian, and Filipino, because some ?patients require matching beyond basic blood groups which they are most likely to find in a donor from the same ethnic background.?

Who Needs It?

When we think of who needs our donated blood, the image of a cancer patient often comes to mind. But did you know that your donated blood is also used for motor vehicle accident victims, organ transplant patients, hip joint surgery patients, as well as brain surgery and coronary artery bypass patients? Even infants and children in need of blood can benefit.

Can I Donate?

Not everyone is eligible to donate. There are some basic blood donation requirements: potential donors must be between 18 and 66 years, although the latter age limit applies only if you have not previously donated blood (if you are 67 years of age or older, are a prior donor, and would like to donate again, ask your doctor for a note detailing good health). Also, donors should weigh at least 50 kg (110 lb).

Even if you fit the basic requirements, you need to wait to give blood if you have had recent dental treatment (fillings, root canal, etc.), have had piercings or tattoos done in the last six months, or are sick with a cold, flu, or sore throat. These precautions ensure that those receiving the donated blood will not be adversely affected.

Additionally, those with certain infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, may not be eligible to donate blood, nor may those with a history of malaria infection. For more information on whether you are eligible, visit Canadian Blood Services to access the donation questionnaire or call 1-888-2-DONATE to speak to a representative.

Is It Safe?

If you qualify, then donating blood is safe. Your hemoglobin (iron in the bloodstream) levels are tested, your blood pressure is taken, and if everything checks out, your blood is drawn by a knowledgeable staff member like a nurse or lab technician. It’s done quickly and efficiently. And with this one donation, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that one hour later, your blood may have saved three lives.

If You’re concerned about weakness during the blood draw process, take a bottle of orange juice along with you. Should you feel lightheaded or nervous, it can help revive you. After the blood draw, you should avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting with that arm, for about six to eight hours.

And don’t worry about the blood loss factor. Your body quickly will recreate the portion of blood you donate. Donated plasma is replaced in hours, and the platelets and red blood cells within 56 days.

The Blood Signal

For more information on how blood donation can save lives, visit the Canadian Blood Services website. This site also includes eligibility questionnaires and other resources covering the basics of blood donation.

And for a reality check, be sure to visit Blood Signal. This new interactive website, a project of Canadian Blood Services, empowers Canadians with both knowledge and a sense of urgency.

we’re all diverse, but as human beings we have a responsibility to look out for one another. If you qualify to donate blood, don’t hesitate, but take the challenge. Roll up your sleeve and head to your nearest blood donor clinic for your good deed of the day!

Katie D?Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently practices in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.

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