I just wrote this whole post and it didn't save and now I'm livid because I visited a LOT of website pages to find this information so that's annoying. One of my most irrational pet hates in life is when the internet fails - not because I'm wholly reliant on it but because it acts like it's working and invariably lets you down in silence. You know those moments when it just gets rid of things, stops loading right before a deadline or deletes a video upload at 99% yeah, those moments. Wind me right up.
So, I've done some research. It's entailed mostly conversations with my friends, twitter, and google - but still, I've done some research, so you don't have to.
Here's what you need to know about giving blood:
You can't give blood if:
- You have a heart or circulatory condition.
- You are under 17.
- You think you need a test for HIV/AIDS, HTLV or hepatitis.
- You have had an infection in the last 14 days
- You have taken antibiotics in the last 7 days
- You are HIV positive.
- You are a hepatitis B carrier.
- You are a hepatitis C carrier.
- You are HTLV positive
- You have ever had or been treated for syphilis.
- You have ever received money or drugs for sex.
- You have ever injected, or been injected with, drugs; even a long time ago or only once. This includes body-building drugs and injectable tanning agents. You may be able to give if a doctor prescribed the drugs. Please check with us to make sure.
You can probably give blood, but you should check, if:
- You are female and between 17-20 - check this sheet.
- You've been travelling - but check this database.
You have to wait at least 12 months after sex with:
- If you are a man who, in the last 12 months has had oral or anal sex with another man (even if you used a condom or other protective). More information regarding this ruling about men who have sex with men.
- (If you are a woman) a man who has ever had oral or anal sex with another man, even if they used a condom or other protective. There are exceptions, so please check.
- A partner who is, or you think may be:
- HIV positive
- A hepatitis B carrier
- A hepatitis C carrier
- HTLV positive
- Syphilis positive
- A partner who has ever received money or drugs for sex.
- A partner who has ever injected, or been injected with, drugs - even a long time ago or only once. This includes body-building drugs and injectable tanning agents. You may be able to give if a doctor prescribed the drugs. Please check with us to make sure.
- A partner who has, or you think may have been, sexually active in parts of the world where HIV/ AIDS is very common. This includes most countries in Africa. There are exceptions, so please check with us to make sure.
Everyone else? You're fine.
So why don't people do it?
These are the most common reasons that I have heard:
'I can't give because I'm deficient in ___'
If you're iron deficient, you MIGHT not produce enough haemoglobin to give blood - but they test that anyway. If you're deficient in a vitamin, whatever it is, then as long as you're not deficient in it because of an underlying health condition (in which case look the condition up here), your blood is still valuable to other people who need it
'I can't give because I take regular medication'
Most people actually can. The common theme seems to be, that as long as you are well on the day of donation, regular medication isn't a problem - providing it isn't taken to treat a condition, which in itself means that you can't give. Again, check the database for the condition rather than the drug specifically.
'I'm scared of blood/needles.'
Obviously a trickier one - and I'm not personally scared of blood or needles so I guess it's not really my place to say. Convenient given that I'm currently a trainee nurse, you know. If you're going to go all feinty feinty then you might be right and it might not be a good idea, but if you have one of the blood types which are less common and/or specifically needed at any point in time, I would urge you to think about whether you can bribe yourself with a lot of food and just not watch.
'I'll feel rubbish afterwards'
Honestly, you might. You might feel rubbish and you might not want to do much for the rest of the day - but I can guarantee that the people who need your blood will feel worse. You can only donate every 12 or 16 weeks anyway, to make sure that blood that's taken isn't blood that your body is actually relying on. Eat well in the run up to it, make sure you're hydrated, and look after yourself afterwards.
'I drink and smoke'
You shouldn't drink or smoke the day before you donate - but I'm SURE you can manage that, for the sake of a pint of blood for someone else. You don't have to abstain for any longer than 24 hours, so if you have to then time it right and go!
If you need more reasons to donate - look up Sickle Cell Disease. Apart from people who lose a lot of blood in road accidents or who need blood during surgery, Sickle Cell patients rely on it for transfusions every few weeks. They can feel extremely unwell and be in intense pain, and the blood donated by strangers literally saves their lives. It has become abundantly clear that as long as your blood isn't going to be dangerous to anyone else, it's better than the alternative for those in need - so please be absolutely certain that you can't donate before you pass up the opportunity!
There are some hugely frustrating elements to this, and there is definitely part of me that thinks there are a lot of gay people for example who would love to give blood - why don't they just test for HIV? For whatever reason - whether it is time, resources, or legislation, they don't, and that rules whole groups of people out. I also don't want to take away from the fact that there are people who are genuinely so needle phobic that it isn't feasible for the to give. All the more reason for those of us who can, to get on with it. Men can give every 12 weeks and women can give every 16 weeks, and it's even super 21st century friendly because you can book online.
UPDATE: I've now done it. My blood went super fast through that machine and then I felt a bit sick, but nothing that a couple of ginger nut biscuits couldn't sort out. A couple of weeks later I got a text saying that my blood had been issued and I got a letter telling me my blood type and thanking me for donating. The app only allows you to book donations from the date when you're next allowed to donate, which is about 3 months between donations - so I've already booked my next donation! Do it.