In 2005 the World Health Assembly designated June 14th World Blood Donor Day around the globe. It has served as an opportunity to celebrate and bring awareness to blood donation worldwide. This date commemorates the birthday of Karl Landsteiner. The person who discovered the ABO human blood type system, which best-determined donors and led to the prominent role of blood transfusions. This international celebration promotes awareness of the critical role donating blood plays in supporting the health industry. As well as the variety of uses of donated blood from emergency uses to increasing scientific knowledge through research.  

Why World Blood Donor Awareness Day?

June 14th is a day to thank all of the blood donors who support and contribute to the betterment of the healthcare industry and save lives. Many people take great pride in volunteering to donate blood or support local blood donation campaigns. This small, selfless gesture provides both life-sustaining and life-saving potential for many in need. The most often stated reason people give blood is that they “want to help others”. But also, they see this as a way of giving back to society for times when they or their loved ones needed blood in the past.

Conversely, when people are asked why they haven’t donated blood, common responses are because they “never thought about it” or they were too busy. It is imperative to grow the blood supply by supporting the return of previous donors as well as recruiting new donors. Volunteers may donate blood once every 56 days, or every two months. If a person began donating at age seventeen and did so every 56 days until the age of 79, they could donate 46.5 gallons of blood! 

This day’s events

On this day blood drives are set up in places including schools, workplaces, and hospitals. Where people are informed about the safety of the process and educated on the uses for donated blood. To meet the needs of our ageing population, it is critical to protect and grow the blood supply. By actively recruiting new donors and encouraging prior donors to return. “The World Health Organization (WHO) has published guidelines on good manufacturing practices to ensure a strong global standard of transfusion and blood product safety,” according to the literature.

Anaemia and acute blood loss are the main uses of blood donation for transfusions. Conditions of the latter may include those battling cancer, accident victims in the emergency room, or even new mothers experiencing complicated childbirth requiring lifesaving transfusions.

Blood Donation

According to one article, blood donations are also used as a primary therapeutic medical intervention. As a result, this may be the case in conditions such as hereditary hemochromatosis, polycythemia and porphyria where the donation may benefit the donor and may be considered “therapeutic phlebotomy”.

The number one cause of donor deferral is low haemoglobin. This is determined by a finger prick test at the donation site. Low haemoglobin in your body is diagnosed in a male who has less than 13.5g/dL of hemoglobin in the blood, or when a female has less than 12 g/dL. This test is done because haemoglobin is a protein molecule found in red blood cells (RBC) that carries oxygen throughout the body.

This level must be high enough for safe donation. While there are many reasons for low haemoglobin (including some diseases and chronic conditions), a common factor is low dietary iron consumption.  The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults aged 19-50 is 8mg per day for men and 18 mg per day for women. The RDA for all adults fifty-one and older is 8mg per day. (The RDA for iron varies by age group and if you are pregnant as well.) 

Diet

The amount and type of iron in the diet are important and there are two types of dietary iron: heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes mainly from haemoglobin and myoglobin found in animal proteins such as meat, poultry, and fish. The absorption of heme iron is less influenced by dietary factors than non-heme iron; approximately thirty percent of heme iron consumed is absorbed.

Conversely, non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods such as beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. These foods has an absorption rate of approximately two to ten percent. It should be noted that the absorption of non-heme iron is affected by enhancers and inhibitors found in the same meal. Foods high in vitamin C (tomatoes, citrus fruit, broccoli, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, strawberries) can also help with the absorption of non-heme iron. While increasing dietary iron may help low iron status, it is important to understand the complexity of iron bioavailability.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “ The iron status of the individual is the overriding factor that determines iron bioavailability, and other host-related factors, such as inflammation, may also play an important role. Obesity is an inflammatory disorder and would be predicted to decrease iron bioavailability.”

What can one person do to help?

  • Become a blood donor today and help save lives
  • Commit to being a regular donor
  • Spread the word – inspire, family, and coworkers to donate
  • Volunteer with blood drive campaigns
  • Use social networks to promote World Blood Donor Day

For those willing to donate blood, some simple preparation steps are advised. These include being well-rested, eating a full meal and staying hydrated with plenty of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages. Donors should also plan to avoid heavy lifting, drinking alcohol, and smoking for several hours after the donation. 

Why should someone give blood?

  • Save lives
  • Use for preplanned procedures or major surgeries 
  • Blood supply always needs more
  • This is a global issue

Interesting Facts

  • Over one hundred million units of blood are donated each year around the world during World Blood Donor day
  • An average adult has about 10-12 pints of blood in their body
  • Those with type O negative blood are universal donors, which means it can be used by anyone
  • There are eight blood types: A, B, AB, and O; all come in either positive or negative Rh factor
  • Blood makes up about seven percent of your body’s weight
  • One pint of blood can save up to three lives
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