Blood is needed by millions of people for a number of purposes, including injuries, regular procedures, and the treatment of serious diseases such as cancer and thalassemia.
In several countries, including Malaysia, the supply of blood products is dependent on a limited number of voluntary donors.
In average, around 2,000 blood bags are needed every day to meet the needs of the patients nationwide and only 2.2% of Malaysians came forward to donate blood in 2015. When compared to the demand for blood products in Malaysia, this amount is still small.
According to deputy director of National Blood Centre, Dr Tun Maizura Mohd Fathlullah, she said the blood supply at the centre and blood banks nationwide has been dwindling since the country was struck by COVID-19 last year, due to people’s fears of contracting the virus through blood donation, as well as the cancellation of several mobile blood donation programmes.
Most of us know that one donation can save as many as three lives but it turns out that donating blood benefits more than just the people who receive it. On top of the benefits that come from helping others, there are health benefits for donors.
Continue reading to learn about the health benefits of blood donation and the reasons behind them.
Benefits of donating blood
Get a health checkup for free
You will need to undergo a health screening prior to blood donation. This checkup is performed by a staff nurse and a doctor and it is completely free! The screening includes:
- ABO grouping (your blood type)
- Blood pressure
- Iron levels
Your blood is also tested for several diseases including viral infections such as syphilis, hepatitis (B&C) and AIDS (HIV). This screening is done to ensure that you are in a good health to donate and it gives you an excellent insight into your health. This is particularly important since many people do not go for regular medical checkups.
Donating blood may lower your risk of suffering heart disease
According to the press release by Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), ischemic heart disease remains the principal cause of death in Malaysia for the last 30 years. Donating blood on a regular basis has been related to lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart attacks.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, participants aged 43 to 61 had fewer heart attacks and strokes when they donated blood every six months. Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that 2,682 men in Finland who donated blood at least once a year had an 88 percent lower risk of heart attacks than those who did not.
Free medical benefits including first-class hospital wards
You may be eligible for a range of medical benefits depending on the frequency of your blood donations, including free Hepatitis B vaccine and outpatient care at any government hospital. Read more here.
What do you need to know before donating
You are eligible to donate blood if:
- Aged between 18-65 years for those who have donated
- 17 years old (need to obtain written permission from parents/guardians)
- You have to weigh at least 45kg and be in good health to donate.
- Last donation more than 3 months ago
- For female donors; not pregnant, not menstruating, not breastfeeding.
- Not engage in any high risk activities as follows:
- Same -sex relationships (homosexual).
- Sexual relationship with both sexes (bisexual)
- Sex with commercial sex workers.
- Exchanging sex partners.
- Taking drugs by injection.
- Being a partner of the above group.
The following are some suggestions to help you prepare for donating blood:
- Wear a short-sleeved shirt or a shirt with sleeves that are easy to roll up.
- Have taken food before donating blood
- Sleep a minimum of 5 hours
- Avoid doing strenuous activities for a period of 5 hours after donating blood
- Drink plenty of water within 24 hours
What happens during blood donation
Registration is required to donate blood and this includes providing identification, filling out a blood donation consent form in which your medical history will be questioned, and undergoing a quick health checkup. Once that is done, your blood donation procedure will begin.
The most versatile form of donation is whole blood. It can be transfused whole or broken down into its individual components of red cells, plasma, and platelets to support various recipients.
For a whole blood donation procedure:
- You’ll be seated in a reclining chair. You can donate blood either sitting or lying down.
- A small area of your arm will be cleaned. A sterile needle will then be inserted.
- You’ll remain seated or lying down while a pint of your blood is drawn. This takes 8 to 10 minutes.
- When a pint of blood has been collected, a staff member will remove the needle and bandage your arm.
After you’ve completed your donation, you’ll be given a snack and a drink and you will be able to sit and relax for 10 to 15 minutes before leaving. If you feel faint or nauseous, you will need to continue lying down until you feel better.
Side effects of donating blood
Blood donation is safe for healthy adults. There’s no risk of contracting the disease as new, sterile equipment is used for each donor.
However, some people can feel nauseous, lightheaded, or dizzy after donating blood. This can only last a few minutes if it happens. You can lie down with your feet up until you feel better.
You can also see some bleeding where the needle was inserted. This is normally avoided by applying pressure and raising the arm for a few minutes. There’s a chance you’ll get a bruise on the spot.
If you’re either lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous after drinking, feeding, and relaxing, call the blood donation service.
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