National Voluntary Blood Donation Day 2018: 5 common myths about blood donation debunked
By: Malini Bhattacharya
Published On: October 01, 2018
On National Voluntary Blood Donation Day 2018, we rebuke common myths surrounding blood donation in India. Read on!
Donating blood is an act of remarkable selflessness, because nobody can compel you to make a gift of blood. This is not an act of giving, unlike giving to charity (in some cases), that is surrounded by peer pressure or political or socio-cultural regulation.
Those who give blood donate it from pure altruism. They do it because they are in a position to donate, healthwise, and because they want to respond to a need for blood and blood products like plasma and platelets.
In 2016, 10.9 units of blood were donated in India and distributed across its 2760 blood banks, private and public, but over a million units of shortfall remained despite so many people coming forward to give blood in cities and villages alike.
The deficit in India’s blood requirement is for these reasons:
- They are too busy to donate.
- They have a clinical fear of needles (aichmophobia) that prevent them from donating.
- They have religious reasons to not donate blood.
- Most importantly, people believe in myths about blood donation (just as they believe in organ donation myths) and health that keep them from donating blood.
On National Voluntary Blood Donation Day 2018, we look at some of the common myths surrounding blood donation.
Myth #1: "Donating blood isn’t good for health. It will make me weak."
Each time you donate blood, about 350-400 milliliters of blood is taken from your body, which has the power to replenish this quantity without damaging itself, as long as you eat right and drink enough fluids.
In fact, when you donate, your blood is slightly thinned down, and reduces your chances of having a heart attack in the coming few months. Once you have recovered from the transient weakness (this lasts for only a few minutes) in the immediate aftermath of the donation, you can resume all normal activities.
Myth #2: "I’ll have to stay away from playing sports or other physical activities after donating blood."
Donating blood will not affect your life for ages! One hour after you have donated blood, your life can go back to normal. This means that if you usually play a sport, you can take part in it on the same day that you donated blood on.
Routine physical activities like short walks, climbing the stairs, and doing housework is also completely permissible. What doctors do warn against is lifting heavy loads in the week following the blood donation.
Strenuous workouts at the gym are also not a good idea, especially if they involve weight training. Aerobic exercises, better known as cardio, is perfectly fine.
Myth #3: "I might contract dangerous infections, like HIV, from donating blood!"
This is one of the biggest fears that hold people back from donating blood not just in India, but around the world. To make things clear, all blood donations are done with new, sterilized needles.
No needles are ever reused. This practically eliminates the risk of a donor contracting HIV or another virulent infection.
To protect the people who are to receive donated blood in transfusions, those who suspect they might be at risk of HIV are discouraged from donating blood. In any case, a medical checkup is conducted on the potential donor before every blood donation is made.
Myth #4: "As a woman, I can’t donate blood."
The crux of the matter of blood donation eligibility has to do with hemoglobin levels. A minimum of 12.5 is the prerequisite. More men than women donate blood because the average woman’s hemoglobin level tends to be lower than the median male’s levels.
If a woman is not underweight and if her hemoglobin count is satisfactory, she can donate blood without reservation. Also, contrary to popular belief, a woman can freely give blood while she is on her period. However, a pregnant woman cannot donate blood, nor a breastfeeding mother.
Myth #5: "I can’t donate blood because I am on some medication."
To refute this very broad myth in a similarly general manner, let’s just say you usually can donate blood even if you are on medication. Most kinds of medication, such as an oral contraceptive pill, a vitamin or nutrient supplement, a painkiller you may have taken, a paracetamol, an antacid, or anti-allergics will not affect your system in any way that will prevent you from donating blood.
If you have been on antibiotics, however, you will need to finish your course and wait for 72 hours before you can give blood. If you are on psychotropic medication, check with your psychiatrist before you make an appointment to donate blood.
The way forward to break these myths is to spread awareness within our local communities about the importance of blood donation and to let people know that a voluntary gift of blood can save lives.
Creating a culture of giving blood, in which people will become spontaneous and recurring donors of blood, is the challenge we have on hand. Recognition and respect for the donor, through events such a day set apart to honor them and tokens of thanks on the parts of blood recipients, such as social media shoutouts, can help us move toward that change.
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