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8 Common Myths About Blood Donation Debunked

Posted September 12, 2022 by Diana Lishnevski, M.D.

Two arms making a heart

Donating blood is a life-saving gift. Every two seconds, someone in this country needs blood, according to the American Red Cross.

While it’s a fact that your blood donation can save the lives of up to three people, you may be fearful of it because of several myths surrounding blood donation. Summa Health debunks 8 common myths about donating blood to ease your mind and encourage you to give this year. There is always a need for donors. Blood has a short shelf life, so maintaining adequate supply is an ongoing challenge.

Myth: It takes a long time to donate blood.

Fact: It’s estimated the process from start to finish takes about one hour. First, you’ll need to register to verify your identification and answer a few questions about your health and travel history. Afterward, a brief health exam will be performed to check your vital signs and hemoglobin and then you’ll do the donation itself, which takes about 10 minutes. 

Afterward, you’ll need to stay for a few minutes to give your body time to adjust. The good news is a snack and drink are almost always provided.

Myth: It hurts.

Fact: The only discomfort you may feel is a quick pinch from the needle, which only lasts for a moment. Afterward, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort. If you want to get a sense of what it feels like, pinch the fleshy, soft underside of your arm.

Myth: I don’t have a rare blood type, so it’s not really needed.

Fact: No matter what your blood type is, it is needed and valuable — and vital to saving a life.

If you have a common blood type, there is a higher demand for it and, therefore, a greater need for donors. If you have a less common blood type, there are fewer donors available to give, making it in short supply.

Myth: It will deplete my own blood supply.

Fact: A person’s body contains about 10 pints of blood and a typical donor gives about one pint of blood. On average, a person’s blood volume will return to normal in about 24 hours. Red blood cells, however, need about four to six weeks for complete replacement. That’s why it’s recommended a healthy donor donate every 56 days.

Myth: I’m too old to donate blood.

Fact: You’re never too old to donate blood. There is no maximum age limit. However, there is a minimum one. Most states require people to be 17 or older to donate.

Myth: I have a tattoo or piercing, so I can’t donate blood.

Fact: In most states, anyone can donate blood immediately after getting a tattoo or piercing, as long as they received it in a state-regulated parlor. Otherwise, people will have to wait 12 months to donate. There are a few select states that require everyone to wait the 12 months no matter what.

Myth: I’m on medication, so I can’t give blood.

Fact: In most cases, taking medication will not disqualify a blood donor. In fact, typically it’s not the medication itself, but the reason you were prescribed the medication that could disqualify you from donating blood.

There are a few exceptions, however. Some medications may require a waiting period to donate after taking the last dose. The American Red Cross offers a breakdown of medications that affect donor eligibility.

Myth: I have high blood pressure, so it’s too dangerous for me to give blood.

Fact: Your blood pressure will be taken during the brief health exam and if the top number of your reading is below 180 and the bottom number is below 100, it’s safe for you to donate blood. Even if you’re on blood pressure medication, you will still qualify.

Still have concerns? Address them with your primary care provider or the on-site nurses prior to donating blood. Just don’t let these myths stop you from giving the gift of life. It’s a quick and easy thing to do, but can make a huge difference in the lives of others. To schedule an appointment with a Summa Health primary care physician, call 800.237.8662


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