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World Blood Donor Day 2020: Why should you donate blood

Every year on 14 June, countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day. The event is organized by the World Health Organization and, besides thanking blood donors, it is also a day to raise awareness about the global need for safe blood and how everyone can contribute. Blood transfusion can save lives, but many patients requiring transfusion do not have timely access to safe blood. In today’s article by Pacific Prime Thailand, we will talk about the importance of blood donations, why should you donate blood, and who actually can. 

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Why is blood donation important? 

First and foremost, blood cannot be manufactured, so donations are the only way we can give blood to those who need it. A single donation can save up to three lives, as one blood donation provides different blood components that can help up to three different people. These are red blood cells, white blood cells and plasma. There are very specific ways in which blood types must be matched for a safe transfusion. The right blood transfusion can mean the difference between life and death. 

Who needs safe blood the most?

Blood and blood products are especially essential to care for:

  • Women with pregnancy and childbirth associated bleeding;
  • Children with severe anaemia due to malaria and malnutrition;
  • Patients with blood and bone marrow disorders inherited disorders of haemoglobin and immune deficiency conditions;
  • Patients suffering from inadequate production of clotting factors (hemophilia);
  • People with traumatic injuries in emergencies, disasters and accidents
  • Patients undergoing advanced medical and surgical procedures.

Blood types 

There are four major blood groups determined by the presence or absence of two antigens – A and B – on the surface of red blood cells. In addition to the A and B antigens, there is a protein called the Rh factor, which can be either present (+) or absent (–), creating the 8 most common blood types (A+, A-,  B+, B-,  O+, O-,  AB+, AB-). Also, Rh-negative blood can only be given to Rh-negative patients, and Rh-positive or Rh-negative blood may be given to Rh-positive patients. The rules for plasma are the reverse.

The universal donor – the hardest to save

Universal donors are those with an O negative blood type because this type of blood can be used in transfusions for all other blood types patients. The need for O positive is also high because it is the most frequently occurring blood type (37% of the population). 

However, since only 7% of the world population have O negative blood, and those with this blood type can only receive blood from other O negative types, they are often the hardest to save in an emergency.

Blood Type  You can give blood to You can receive blood from 
A+ A+, AB+ A+, A-, O+, O- 
A-  A+, A-, AB+, AB-  A-, O-
B+ B+, AB+ B+, B-, O+, O-
B- B+, B-, AB+, AB- B-, O-
AB- AB+, AB-,  AB-, A-, B-, O-
O+ O+, A+, B+, AB+ O+, O-

Who can donate blood?

Most people can donate blood, however, there are eligibility criteria you must pass before donating. 

Age and weight

In Thailand, according to the Red Cross, people of the age of 17 can donate blood, assuming they bring parental consent. The upper limit is set to 70 years old – but only for regular blood donors. The first-time donors must not be older than 55 years old. Besides that, anyone who wants to donate blood in Thailand must weigh at least 45 kilograms, and any foreigner wanting to donate blood here must have been living in the Kingdom for at least the past six months before they can donate blood.

Health and behaviour

People wanting to make blood donations must be in good general health. Blood donors should not have a medical history of heart disease, liver disease, lung disease, blood disease, cancer or bleeding and difficulty to stop bleeding, as well as hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus infection.

Blood donors should also not have a history of drug addiction or just be acquitted within 3 years, no tattoo or skin puncture such as navel piercing, nose piercing etc. within the past of 12 months. Donors should also restrain from any risky sexual behaviour such as having sex with another person other than their partner or same-sex sexuality.

Thailand, among other countries, also bans blood donation by people who have lived in the UK between 1980-1996 because of the possible risk of transmitting the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

Before donation: 

In case of taking antibiotics, the donor must stop the medication for at least 7 days before donation. 

The donor should not undergo teeth extraction, filling, scraping, tartar and root canal treatment during the past 3 days before the scheduled blood donation, and abstain from alcoholic beverages during the past 24 hours.

Blood donors who have undergone major surgery should not donate blood for 6 months. Donors who undergo small surgery should not donate blood for 7 days. If the donor has received blood from previous treatment, he or she should refrain from donating blood for 1 year.

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5 reasons why you should donate blood

Blood plays a vital role in saving human life, but it also has certain benefits for the donor. These are: 

  1. Development of new red blood cells
    Blood donation can be done as often as every 3 months. When we donate blood, the bone marrow plays an important role in producing new blood cells to replace blood lost in order to maintain the same blood volume. The replenishment process helps in staying healthy and productive at work. If one does not donate blood, the body will routinely excrete the degenerated blood cells anyway.
  2. Reduced risk of heart disease
    Donating blood at least once a year may lower your risk of suffering a heart attack by 88%, according to a study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology. This is connected to sometimes too high levels of iron in the blood, and depleting those extra iron deposits by donating blood gives your vessels more room to operate.
  3. Free blood test
    The first time you donate blood, you’ll receive a mini body check-up, in which someone will check your pulse, blood pressure, hemoglobin levels and more. Typical blood tests performed before blood donation can reveal your blood type, but also test for more serious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis.
  4. Burn calories
    Donating blood can burn approximately 650 calories for every 450 ml of blood. We do not say that blood donation is a way to lose weight, because it doesn’t. We simply state the facts, letting you know that you can eat your chocolate or juice that is usually provided after blood donation without any guilt.
  5. It takes just 20 minutes to save someone’s life
    During your donation, approximately 500 ml of blood will be taken with the use of sterile needles and bags, by trained nurses. The process of the blood withdrawal takes approximately 10 minutes, and after it’s done, you should rest for another 10 minutes. And that’s it, you just saved someone’s life!

Expats in Thailand at risk

It is not a widely known fact, but especially Caucasians in Asia – including in Thailand – are at greater risk of having negative medical outcomes due to unavailability of blood for the purposes of transfusion. This is simply because of genetic differences between Caucasians and Asians.

Caucasian people are more likely to have Rh factor negative (Rh-) blood (i.e. a B- blood type, as opposed to a B+ one) than Asians. This has created a situation where the reserves of blood catering to Rh- blood types are significantly lower than their positive counterparts in Thailand. 

For example, Red Cross Thailand estimates that at present, the demand for Rh-negative blood in Thai hospitals is increasing to about 40 units/month, while the supply of this type of blood is at half of the demand. Only about 0.3% of the Thai population have the Rh-negative blood group. Unfortunately, all this leaves Caucasians with Rh- blood to worry about what will happen in the event that they have a serious accident that causes the loss of substantial amounts of blood.

To find out more about how private medical insurance can help you get the blood you need if you are in such a situation, contact the insurance experts at Pacific Prime Thailand. We can answer all of your questions, as well as provide you with a free price quotation and plan comparison.

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Content Writer at Pacific Prime Thailand
Elwira Skrybus is a content writer at Pacific Prime. In her everyday work, she is utilizing her previous social media and branding experience to create informative articles, guides, and reports to help our readers simplify the sometimes-puzzling world of international health insurance.

When she isn’t writing, you are most likely to find Elwira in search of the perfect plant-based burger or enjoying Hong Kong’s great outdoors either at the beach or from the boat - the closer to the sea, the better!