Even in the most ancient times, people realized that large blood losses are fraught with death. In our time, transfusion is perceived as the most common medical procedure. But mankind went to this knowledge by a long way of trial and error. There was a time when our ancestors even drank the blood of animals, hoping to restore their own reserves in this way. In the XVII century, doctors first tried to transfuse blood. But then they used animals as “donors”. It is clear that such experiments did not end well. And only in the XVIII century did doctors understand: only human blood can save a patient’s life. Although at that time they did not even know about the existence of groups and Rhesus. The mass practice of more or less professional transfusion began to be used only during the First World War. And by the way, it was at this time that the first myths about donation and transfusion were born, many of which are common even in our time.
Research on the benefits and harms of blood donation has been conducted for a long time. Scientists around the world set themselves the task: to determine how regular blood loss affects human health, how quickly his body recovers after the procedure.
What is donation
Donation is a voluntary donation of one’s own blood in favor of another person who needs it for treatment. This term is based on the Latin donare, which translates as “to give”.
Few people know, but donation can be different. A person can donate either a certain amount of blood in its entirety, or only its individual components. Regardless of the type of donation, before the procedure, the donor must undergo a medical examination and pass tests.
Types of donation
Blood can be donated for different purposes and for different reasons. Based on this, donation can be:
- Targeted – the donor donates blood, as a rule, urgently for the treatment of a relative or another person after severe bleeding (after an accident, surgery).
- Allogeneic – the donated material enters the blood storage bank and is then used for patients in need of transfusion.
- Autologous is a type of donation, when blood is taken from the patient before the operation, and after it the taken material is poured back into the donor.
- Substitute – in this case, the donor donates blood to replace the material previously taken from the general bank for a sick relative.
According to the submitted material
Depending on the circumstances, the donor can donate whole blood or only certain of its components.
Whole blood donation
The permissible amount of blood that a donor can donate at a time may vary slightly in different countries. In Russia, for example, 450 ml is considered the norm, while in the USA – 480 ml, which is equal to 1 pint. The procedure usually takes no more than 15 minutes. After it, the donor fully recovers in an average of 8 weeks.
During this procedure, the donor donates only plasma. To do this, whole blood is first taken from him, then it is centrifuged and the plasma is separated from the cell mass. The liquid part is taken away, and the thick components are diluted with saline and injected back into the donor’s vein. Up to 600 ml of plasma can be taken in one procedure without harm to health. The procedure lasts about 1 hour. Full recovery after plasmapheresis occurs after 2 weeks.
Delivery of immune plasma
As in the previous case, only plasma will be required from the donor. But most importantly, it must contain antibodies to a specific virus or bacteria. In order for the donor’s body to contain these antibodies, he must be vaccinated before the procedure. That is, a special vaccine is injected into his body, provoking the production of antibodies and the formation of immunity to the disease.
Platelets are extracted from the blood taken, after which the remaining components are injected back to the donor. This procedure is somewhat more complicated than plasmapheresis or delivery of whole material. Up to 450 ml of platelet mass can be taken from a donor at a time. The procedure takes about 2 hours. It will take 2-3 weeks to recover.
The procedure is carried out similarly to platelet transference, but it is not platelets that are extracted, but erythrocytes – red blood cells (erythromass). Erythrocytapheresis lasts within 30 minutes. After the procedure, the donor recovers within 1 month.
What happens to the body after blood donation
On average, an adult’s body contains about 5 liters of blood. That is, after 1 procedure, the donor loses almost 10% of its original composition. In addition, in the case of delivery of whole material, the amount of heme in his body decreases by almost 225-250 ml. Specialists call a combination of divalent iron and porphyrin heme. These substances form the nucleus of hemoglobin and are responsible for the transport of oxygen through the body. That is, after blood donation, the oxygen exchange in the donor’s body worsens. How dangerous is it? If the heme losses do not exceed 250 ml, then the body copes with this quite easily by activating its own compensatory mechanisms.
In the aorta and carotid artery there are special baroreceptors that fix the pressure inside the vessels. When the volume of blood in the vascular system decreases, they transmit special impulses to the heart and lungs, forcing them to work more actively.
After the donation procedure, the antidiuretic hormone responsible for the regulation of fluid in the body is more actively produced in the body. Due to its activity, the vessels narrow a little and the pressure in them is restored. When a person loses a certain amount of blood, there is a surge of another hormone in his body – erythropoietin, which activates the formation of red blood cells. Thus, a chain of mechanisms for rapid recovery of losses is launched in the human body.
Donation: benefits for the body
As a rule, donor blood is needed:
- patients with multiple severe burns;
- patients with large blood loss during an accident, injury, surgery, childbirth;
- pregnant women with severe toxicosis;
- persons with severe anemia;
- patients with hematological or purulent-septic diseases;
- people with severe bleeding, etc.
In such cases, the donor’s blood can save the recipient’s life. But, as they say, there is another side of the coin: are there any advantages from donating blood for the donor himself.
Even in ancient times, folk healers treated various diseases with bloodletting. Although in fact, in many cases this procedure was inappropriate and did not affect the course of the disease in any way, but the body can still get certain advantages from small blood losses.
- Reduction of oxidative stress. Specialists who studied the effects of blood donation on the donor’s body found that this procedure helps to reduce the amount of iron in the body, and with it, reduce oxidative stress. It turned out that after the loss of a certain amount of blood in the body, the amount of an enzyme with a complex name – superoxide dismutase increases. This substance inhibits the activity or even destroys reactive oxygen species, which have a detrimental effect on humans. And since oxidative stress is considered one of the causes of malignant cell degeneration, this fact allowed scientists to look at donation as a prevention of various types of cancer. According to the results of a study that lasted almost 5 years, American scientists have suggested that it is useful to be a donor twice a year for the prevention of oncological diseases, including liver, throat, lungs and intestines.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease. Observing donors, scientists concluded that blood donation helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Statistics say that donors are almost 80% less likely to suffer from cardiac disorders than other people. Firstly, donation helps to lower blood pressure. Secondly, it is known that one of the factors causing cardiac disorders is increased blood viscosity (the so-called “thick blood”). In such people, circulation in the vessels is disrupted, the risk of blood clots, blockage of the arteries increases, which can cause sudden death. But as it turned out, regular blood donation reduces its viscosity, which reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Proponents of this theory claim that the beneficial effect on the cardiac system will be noticeable if you undergo the procedure at least 1 time a year.
- Prevents autoimmune diseases. Donation helps to reduce the amount of proteins in the body responsible for inflammatory reactions. When these proteins accumulate excessively, there is a risk of damage to cell membranes, and the development of processes leading to autoimmune diseases is also possible. Excess of such proteins can cause cancer, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, as well as accelerated aging. Donation can protect against all this.
- Promotes weight loss. According to scientists from the University of San Diego (USA), during the donation procedure, a person loses more than 650 calories. That is, regular blood donation can be useful for people with excess weight. But at the same time, frequent blood donations may be contraindicated for people with normal or deficient weight.
Can donation do harm
If a person does not have serious health problems, then a one-time blood donation will not bring harm to him. According to experts, negative side effects of donation occur only in 2 out of 100 people. The most common side effect is fainting. After the procedure, a person may lose consciousness due to the resulting drop in blood pressure.
The question of whether regular donation can be harmful or dangerous is of concern to most people who will have to donate blood. Moreover, in our time, experts have refuted the theory that this procedure helps to renew the blood. On the contrary, you can often hear that regular donation causes addiction in a person, although it has already been proven that this is a myth. Certain risks of such a procedure, of course, exist, although much of what donation actually threatens is often greatly exaggerated.
- Anemia. Uncontrolled blood donation is always a risk of iron deficiency, as well as a shortage of other components, without a sufficient amount of which anemia develops. This danger can be prevented if you eat a balanced diet before and after the procedure, and also do not become a donor too often.
- The permeability of capillaries deteriorates. Regular bloodletting impairs the permeability of the capillaries that supply blood to the pulmonary alveoli. The researchers made this assumption after observing donors with many years of experience.
- Increases the risk of neoplasms. Although this theory has no scientific confirmation yet, some groups of scientists are sure that frequent blood donation activates the proliferation process in the body. This term implies a condition in which cells actively multiply by dividing, thereby causing tissue growth. When a person regularly donates red blood cells, new red blood cells are formed more actively due to proliferation. But, according to scientists, blood donation activates the accelerated growth of not only red blood cells, but also cells of malignant formations (if any) in the organs involved in hematopoiesis. And this is the red bone marrow, lymph nodes, thymus gland, spleen.
How to properly prepare for blood donation
In order to minimize the risk of side effects from donation, it is necessary to properly prepare for the procedure in advance. The day before it, the donor needs to avoid a lot of physical activity, as well as have a good rest (in this regard, a full sleep is very important).
It is absolutely impossible to donate blood on an empty stomach. For breakfast, it is useful to choose foods rich in carbohydrates, including sweet tea and a high-calorie dessert. But there are some restrictions regarding food. 24 hours before the delivery of the material and immediately before the procedure, it is forbidden to use the following products:
- sausages and smoked meats;
- chocolate; bananas;
- vegetable and butter;
- fast food.
To avoid dizziness, after donation it is necessary to lie down or sit for at least 15 minutes. During this time, the blood pressure will have time to level off. After the procedure, you should not burden yourself physically and visit the sauna. It is necessary to drink a lot of water during the day. This helps to restore fluid reserves in the body faster. The diet on this day should be balanced and high in calories.
Absolute contraindications to donation:
- oncological diseases;
- radiation sickness;
- infectious diseases;
- cardiovascular diseases;
- the presence of parasites;
- diseases of the digestive tract;
- disorders of the kidneys or liver;
- bronchial asthma;
- skin diseases;
- blindness and other eye diseases;
- recently underwent surgery.
Time limits for donation:
- age up to 18 years and after 60 years;
- body weight below 50 kg;
- pregnancy (within 12 months after delivery);
- breast-feeding (3 months after graduation);
- tooth extraction (10 days);
- taking antibiotics (14 days);
- vaccination (up to 12 months);
- alcohol consumption (48 hours);
- visits to Africa, Asia, Central or South America (3 years);
- recently made tattoo, piercing (for 1 year);
- undergoing the acupuncture procedure (within 1 year).
Myths about donation
1. During the procedure, you can get infected with some disease
In fact, this is an absurd assumption. In any clinic, disposable sterile systems are used for blood collection. They should be packed in an airtight container and opened immediately before the procedure in the presence of the donor. This is the main guarantee of security for the donor.
2. Donation takes a long time
If a person passes the whole material, then the whole procedure takes no more than 10-15 minutes. It will take longer if only individual components need to be extracted from donated blood.
3. It hurts
The only painful moment of the procedure is piercing the skin and puncturing the vein on the inside of the elbow. According to the strength of the pain, these sensations are compared with a pinch. Otherwise, the procedure does not bring painful sensations.
4. Smokers cannot be donors
Smokers can donate blood, but they will have to refrain from the bad habit for at least 24 hours before the procedure and another 1 hour after it.
5. Regular blood donation is addictive
If a person is healthy, then even repeated surrender will not cause such an effect. The opinions of experts on the benefits and harms of donation are very contradictory. There are research results both confirming the advantages of the procedure and indicating that regular donation may not be safe for a person. We examined the most common theories about the potential harm and benefits of the procedure. But still, it is always necessary to take into account the individual characteristics of the body and the state of health of the donor.