Skip to content
Font Size

Giving Blood Can Be the Ultimate Gift

Blood donations are needed all year, but they're most critical during the holidays.
WebMD Magazine - Feature

What is a special present that could come only from you? You may not have thought of this: The greatest gift you can give another human is, literally, life. Donating blood even once can help save the lives of three people -- whether they're newborns needing heart surgery, adults badly injured in car crashes, or people of any age suffering from cancer.

If you already donate, you probably know how important it is. If you don't donate, you're hardly alone. While 60% of Americans are eligible to give blood, only 5% of them do -- even though someone in America needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. "At any given time, we only have a three-day supply of blood in this country. It's vitally important that people give," says Anne Eder, MD, executive medical officer of the American Red Cross.

Recommended Related to

Larenz Tate on Sickle Cell Disease

September is Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month, and for actor Larenz Tate, that means spreading the word about a chronic disease that disproportionately affects the African-American community. "It's really important to know if you carry the disease," says Tate, 36, who recently costarred on FX's Rescue Me and in BET's made-for-TV movie Gun Hill, which premieres this fall. As many as 100,000 people in the United States have the disease, which causes red blood cells to resemble sickles or crescents...

Read the Larenz Tate on Sickle Cell Disease article > >

Queasy? Busy? Unsure where to go? Read on to learn how the blood donor system works -- and how you can participate.

Who Gives?

Studies show that the primary motivation for the 8 million Americans who donate blood every year is altruism, while the primary hurdle for those who don't is inconvenience. Yet most communities offer places to give blood, and the whole procedure takes only an hour.

Those who have never donated cite the risk of AIDS as their primary concern. But "people cannot get a disease from giving blood," Eder says. "The staff use a new, sterile needle on each donor and immediately dispose of it after they draw the blood."

Am I Eligible?

Guidelines differ from state to state, but in general you are eligible if you are 17 and older, weigh more than 110 pounds, and don't have AIDS or other transmissible diseases. Some conditions may also make you temporarily ineligible, including pregnancy, low blood iron, and high or low blood pressureproblems.

Blood donations are needed all year, but they're most critical during holidays. "That's when we see the most trauma," Eder says, "and when donors are unavailable, due to vacation schedules, illness, or inclement weather."

How to Give Blood

  • Contact (1-800-GIVE-LIFE) to find a blood donation center in your community.
  • Make an appointment.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat a meal before your appointment.
  • Arrive on time, wearing sleeves that can be raised.
  • Give your health history and take the mini physical (which includes your pulse, blood pressure, and blood count).
  • Donate blood (usually one pint).
  • Rest in the "canteen" and have a complimentary snack.
  • Take it easy for the rest of the day. Drink lots of fluids, avoid strenuous activity, and feel good about having helped others, knowing your body will replace the blood you gave in just a few weeks.

Published November 2006.

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
Remember your finger
Are You Getting More Forgetful?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.