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Blood donation: fact vs. fiction

March 01, 2018 | UCI Health
stickers for first-time blood donors

Blood. It’s the stuff of both poetry and horror. It’s also essential for life, which is why UCI Health is always in need of blood donations. But many people are needlessly fearful of donating because of myths about the effects of giving blood.

Minh-Ha Tran, MD, UCI Health’s director of transfusion medicine services, says blood donation is critical to saving lives of people who are:

  • Suffering traumatic injury
  • Needing surgery
  • Being treated for cancer

Tran, who supervises UCI Health’s blood donation program, helps Live Well separate fact from fiction.

Fiction: Donating blood adversely affects health

Fact: The screening process ensures that blood donation is appropriate for each individual, and for donors, the physiological effect is negligible. For some, the process can be a little stressful, so resting for a short time afterward is recommended.

Fiction: Blood donations deplete a person’s own blood supply

Fact: The human body contains about 10 pints of blood, and a typical donor gives about one pint of whole blood. The body makes new blood after a donation.

Fiction: Vegetarians cannot donate blood.

Fact: It is true that vegetarians take longer to recover the iron lost from blood donations. That is because iron found in vegetables is not absorbed as well by the body as iron from animal protein. However, vegetarians who want to donate regularly can take iron supplements. Learn more about raising your iron levels ›

Fiction: Blood donation takes too much time.

Fact: The actual process of donating whole blood takes less than 15 minutes. When you include the initial screening, a mini-physical and eating a snack afterwards, the entire process takes less than an hour. Donating platelets can take an hour or so longer.

Fiction: HIV or other infections can be contracted from donating blood

Fact: In the United States, sterility is maintained throughout all steps of the blood donation process, and needles are never reused to prevent the transmission of any infection.

Fiction: There’s a substitute for human blood

Fact: Although scientists are testing hemoglobin-based substitutes for blood and a product called SANGUINATE™, nothing is currently available to replace human blood. And every two seconds, someone in the United States is in need of blood.

Fiction: Giving blood hurts

Fact: The pain experienced donating blood is typically no more than a pin prick when the needle enters the skin. Sometimes a twinge of a nerve may occur or a small bruise might result from the needle entry.

Fiction: Blood is only donated by professional donors

Fact: The U.S. Food & Drug Administration requires that blood donated by people who are paid for their donations must be labeled as such. UCI Health does not pay blood donors.

Fiction: I’m too old to donate blood

Fact: There is no upper age limit for blood donations from healthy people. However, UCI Health asks that donors be at least 17 years old. Learn more about who can donate ›

Fiction: There is enough blood supply to meet people’s needs

Fact: Only 5 percent of people who are eligible to give blood actually donate. That means that UCI Health is continuously seeking blood donations at its centers in Orange and Irvine, circulating its traveling blood mobile throughout Orange County, and conducting blood drives.

The blood donation process

Watch the entire process from start to finish to see just how easy it is:

Make an appointment

To make an appointment at our blood donation center in Orange, contact us at 714-456-LIFE (714-456-5433), or request one online ›

For appointments at our center in Irvine, contact us at 949-824-2662, or request one online ›

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