With January being National Blood Donor Month, there’s no better way to kick off the new year than being a lifesaver.
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Anyone can save a life simply by donating blood. In addition to the most commonly used type O, rarer types such as type A and type B are needed, especially when donations fall off during the year-end period when people go on vacation.
If there is a superhero lurking in us all, it is the blood donor who makes the effort, as just one unit (525ml) of blood could save three lives, from a woman experiencing complications with her pregnancy, to a patient undergoing emergency heart surgery, or a victim fighting to survive a traumatic injury.
Demand always exceeds supply when it comes to Singapore’s blood stocks.
Type O, the universal blood group, is used during emergencies when patients’ blood groups are unknown. Up to 15 units of blood, predominantly type O, is used to treat patients every hour of every day in Singapore. Roughly 50% of patients in Singapore rely on type O for transfusions as it is the only compatible blood group for them, according to the Singapore Red Cross and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) of Singapore. Both publicly appealed as recently as December of last year for 3,000 blood donations to replenish the nation’s blood stocks of type O, type A and type B, especially since type O supply was only at half of what was needed.
Blood stocks constantly need replenishment because blood can only be stored for a limited time before use. To keep the blood bank in the pink of health, there is a need for healthy people to step up and regularly donate blood.
“This will ensure that we have enough blood to support patients’ transfusion needs and medical emergencies in Singapore,” said the Singapore Red Cross and HSA.
You can donate blood if you:
- Are aged between 16 and 60 years old (youths aged 16 and 17 have to complete and bring a signed parental consent form);
- Weigh at least 45kg;
- Are in generally good health and not on any medication;
- Do not have any symptoms of infection (eg. sore throat, cough, runny nose or diarrhoea) for at least a week before donating;
- Have not had a fever in the last three weeks; and
- Have a haemoglobin level of at least 12.5g/dl. Don’t worry if you do not know as tests will be administered by healthcare professionals at the donation site.
You should not donate blood if you:
- Are currently undergoing treatment for a major illness or surgery (you should wait a year before you donate);
- Are experiencing heavy menstrual flow or pregnant (you should wait for 6 weeks after a normal delivery, provided that you do not breastfeed your baby);
- Have a fever (you should wait for 3 weeks); or
- Have upper respiratory tract infections such as cold, flu, sore throat or any other symptoms of infection without fever (you should wait for a week after recovery).
Worried about the potential dangers of donating blood?
Put your fears to rest. Giving blood does not weaken the immune system. Feeling nervous still? Medical staff at donation sites are always on hand to answer your questions and assess your health to ensure you are fit to donate blood. New and sterile disposable needles and blood packs are also used for every donor to contain the risk of contracting any disease by donating blood. Measures are also in place to ensure that a maximum of 450ml of blood is drawn per donor. As the average adult has four to five litres of blood, that equates to just 12% of the total volume of blood in your body.
How long does it take the body to replenish the donated amount? Just three days. While you may have good intentions, you shouldn’t donate blood again so soon. The recommended time interval between each donation is twelve weeks and is meant to safeguard your health.
Tips for quicker recovery after your donation
The Singapore Red Cross recommends eating more iron-rich food such as red meat, beans, dark green vegetables and prunes two weeks ahead of donating blood. Doing so helps your body replenish the donated blood. On the day itself, eat a light meal two hours prior to donation but be sure to avoid fatty food as the lipids (fatty materials) can affect the tests done on the blood you’ve donated. Do remember to drink more water on the donation day and preferably the day before too. Getting a good night’s sleep will also help you recover faster after giving blood.
Wear tops with short or loose-fitting sleeves to prevent constriction to your arm from rolled up sleeves. Remember to also take the iron tablets provided by the blood bank because these supplements are the most effective way for you to replenish your iron levels.
Refrain from lifting or carrying heavy items for at least 12 hours after donation, to promote healing and prevent bruising at the needle site. Avoid any physically taxing or sporting activities for 24 hours as well as doing so may cause fainting and increase the risk of excessive bleeding from the needle site.
That’s all there is to it! You can always access information on the locations and opening hours of blood banks in Singapore through this link on HSA’s website. Remember to also bring your identification card or passport. See you at the blood bank!
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