You don’t need to wear a cape to be a hero (but by all means do, if that’s your style 😀). You can help to save someone’s life simply by donating your blood. World Blood Donor Day, which falls on June 14 each year, aims to raise awareness of the need for regular donations and to thank blood donors from all around the globe for their life-saving gifts of blood.
This year’s campaign slogan, ‘Give blood and keep the world beating’, highlights the critical contribution blood donors make to improving other people’s lives and health. Did you know that 1 pint of blood, which only takes you around 15 minutes to donate, can save up to 3 lives?
The current pandemic situation may have you questioning whether it’s safe to donate blood right now. The NHS is urging people to continue to donate as it is saving lives on a daily basis. Taking some simple steps, like visiting the donation centre alone and following social distancing measures, can help keeping you and others safe, as well as making your donation as pleasant an experience as possible, given the circumstances. Read more here for detailed information to prepare you for a donation.
Certain blood types are more uncommon than others, such as the Ro subtype that is often used to treat people with sickle cell. To this effect, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is especially urging people with rare blood groups to become donors. People from the same ethnic background are more likely to share the same blood type; Ro is 10 times more common in black people than in white people.
Most blood transfusions are based on Ro and Rh blood groups, but there are 36 other blood groups known. Each blood group is based on the antigens present on the red blood cells, and with over 600 such antigens, there’s a potential for a huge variation among different people. If a person’s red blood cells lack common antigens, they could have a rare blood subtype.
Do you have rare blood flowing through your veins? Your donation could be vital for patients who share your subtype. You’ll find out if you have a rare blood subtype after your first blood donation.
- AB negative: This is the rarest subtype, with just 1% of donors having it. Although it’s rare, the demand for AB negative blood is low
- Ro subtype: Only 2% of donors have this blood type, and its demand increases by 10–15% each year. Being rare and in high demand, makes people with Ro subtype critical donors
The NHS manages a record of blood donors from over 27 countries worldwide. This helps them search for a match when a request for rare blood comes in. Some rare blood types are stored for years in special freezers, ready for when they are needed.
There have been some landmark changes regarding the eligibility of blood donors in the UK, introduced in May this year, to help make blood donation more inclusive. For the first time, the form that any potential donor must complete before giving blood will ask the same questions about sexual behaviours regardless of their sexual history or orientation. Previously, this was something that only homosexual men were asked.
But, before you head over to your local blood donation centre, it might be worth finding out if you meet the criteria to donate. You may be eligible if:
- You’re fit and healthy
- You weigh 50–158 kg
- You’re aged 17–66 years (if this is your first time giving blood)
- You’re aged >70 and have made a full blood donation within the last two years
- If you’ve tested positive, wait for at least 56 days before next donation
- If you’ve been recently vaccinated, you can donate on the 8th day from your vaccination
- If you’ve had or think you may have had COVID-19 infection, please confirm your situation with the centre before your visit
So, let’s remember to donate blood safely, following the local donor centre’s guidelines. You can register as a blood donor here.
- NHS. Blood and Transplant. Available at: https://www.blood.co.uk