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A Guide to Blood Donations & Collections

 In Stem Cell News

January marks National Blood Donor month, so we’re happy to tie in with this occasion to support blood donors both in the UK and around the world, as well as helping to encourage those who may not have considering giving blood before to do so. Campaigns around donating blood are prevalent, but there’s still work to be done in helping people understand what it’s all about, how it works and just why it’s so important to consider having your blood collected for donation.

Why is blood donation important?

There are 4 separate blood groups – A, B, O and AB – which further separate down into Rh-positive or Rh-negative, giving us 8 blood types in total. Some types are more rare than others – here’s the breakdown of the UK population by percentage that have each overall blood type:

  • A: 42% of the UK population
  • B: 10% of the UK population
  • O: 44% of the UK population
  • AB: 4% of the UK population

The numbers of donors (people who regularly donate their blood) are not necessarily proportional to each blood group.

However, there is a plus side: some blood types are compatible with one another, meaning that, for example, type A blood can go to a person with either type A or type O.

Check out our handy infographic guide which outlines which blood groups can donate and receive to one another as well as more information about blood donations and collections below:

It’s so important for everyone who is eligible to give blood to consider doing so because building large stores of different types of blood means that there is always a surplus. It’s very rare and unlikely that the country would run low enough on a specific blood type to cause issues, but there is always a risk, however small, that an emergency could cause shortages in certain areas of the country.

What are the different types of blood donation?

The most common type of blood donation is whole blood. This is the one that is offered most frequently by the NHS and is the most easily accessible as donation centres are regularly set up nationwide. The blood is taken in its whole form simply via a needle in your arm. It can then be separated into its components, such as plasma and platelets, or kept in its original form so it can be used as needed.

Platelet donation uses an apheresis machine to collect platelets and plasma from your blood, while the remainder is returned to your body in the other arm. This type of donation can be particularly helpful as it can take up to 5 whole blood donations to make up a single unit of platelets, whereas a single platelet donation can result in several transferable units.

Peripheral blood stem cells are collected through a non-surgical procedure where donors have stimulating injections in the lead up to a collection. Bone marrow cells are then drawn out of the blood in one arm and the remainder returned to the other.

Cord blood collections happen shortly after birth and is drawn using a needle. The blood found in the umbilical cord is a rich source of stem cells which can be donated or stored privately with facilities like ours.

Who is eligible to give blood?

Most people are eligible to give blood, as long as they:

  • Are fit and healthy.
  • Weigh over 50kg.
  • Between the ages of 17 and 66 years old.

If you don’t fit the above criteria, this doesn’t entirely rule you out though. Please consider speaking to a healthcare professional to see if you’re eligible even if you don’t fit the above or fit into the following:

  • Are currently receiving medical treatment.
  • Have a recent tattoo or piercing.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Have received blood before.

Why might someone need a blood transfusion?

There are countless conditions that might result in a person needing to receive a blood transfusion. This could be as a result of a high level of blood loss, simply because the blood cells that already exist in their body are not functioning correctly, or to replace cells that have been damaged as a result of a specific medical treatment. These include but are not limited to:

  • Sickle cell anaemia
  • Trauma
  • Surgery patients
  • Cancer patients
  • Burn victims
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Leukaemia
  • Thalassemia

If you’re interested in knowing more about giving blood, the NHS website has a vast amount of information. To help us spread awareness, head over to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where you can instantly share our posts on blood donation and collection.

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