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Blood donation is critical during the pandemic

Contributed by Dr. Jayashree D. Kulkarni, Consultant Pathologist, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital Yeshwanthpur

The on-going Covid-19 has made a drastic impact on our society and all activities have come to a halt, including blood donation. We have been witnessing a shortage in the blood units across various blood banks in India which has created a challenge for people who are in need of emergency procedures and require blood. Blood banks in India have already been facing shortage due to increased demand and a low number of donors, and this shortfall is to the extent of over a million units. This is why, particularly during this time of emergency, it is critical to educate people about the importance of donating blood. Blood cannot be stored indefinitely, hence it is crucial that we find ways and means to conduct blood donation camps in a safe manner, and people must step forward to donate blood during these critical times.

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The Ministry of Health has developed guidelines to safely conduct blood donation camps and these must be strictly followed. Certain cities have also begun to conduct such activities, which is a great sign. Covid-19 does not transfer via blood; hence people need not worry and healthy individuals must come forward to donate during this time. Along with permissions from the district authorities and by following the required measures such as thorough sanitization, maintaining social distancing, conducting thermal and respiratory scanning, medical authorities present at the camp may safely collect blood. Some volunteers may be rejected due to ineligibility or health conditions.

What patients require today are safe blood and blood products and this is only possible through regular donations by voluntary blood donors. The facts below should help clear any misconceptions about the effects of blood donation on the body:

  1. Age of donor: There is no ‘right age’ to donate blood. Anyone who is fit and healthy up to the age of 60 can donate blood.
  2. Loss of blood from the body: Drinking liquids can replace the lost fluid in a couple of hours, and recovery after blood donation is complete in a day or two. All the red blood cells are replaced within a few days and white blood cells within 3 weeks.
  3. Effect on physical activity: Donating blood has a very minor physical effect – one should avoid any strenuous workout like lifting heavy weights for the rest of the day. But one can get back to these activities the next day.
  4. Blood donation is complicated: No. In fact, blood donation normally takes less than an hour
  5. Time between donations:Male blood donors need to wait at least 12 weeks between whole blood donations and female donors 16 weeks.

Donated blood has many uses. It is used in emergencies like in treatment of trauma suffered during an accident or natural disasters, in surgery including cardiac surgery and emergency surgery, and in medical conditions such as sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and haemophilia, cancer and blood disorders.  It helps extend the life of patients suffering from life-threatening conditions with a higher quality of life. It also has a life-saving role in maternal and child care when there are complications, leading to blood loss. It is said that when one person donates blood, three lives are saved. This is because when blood is donated, different components like red blood cells, platelets and plasma are used to treat various conditions. In fact, plasma therapy, a procedure in which a part of blood containing useful antibodies is transfused from someone who has successfully recovered from Covid-19 into a patient who is currently battling it, is one of the important treatment methods being explored to treat the coronavirus today.

This World Blood Donor Day, we urge people to find out more information about donation camps being conducted near them and come forward to donate blood for those in need. In case there are no camps happening, please speak with your local authorities to see how you could be part of organizing such a camp in a safe and hygienic manner and encourage more people to participate. There are thousands of people who are battling pre-existing conditions that require to be attended to and that cannot wait until the end of the pandemic – you could be the one to save them during these difficult times. Go ahead, and donate.

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