Olivia Rose-Innes is Health24’s EnviroHealth Editor. Read more of her columns and articles or post a question to her expert forum.
The South African National Blood Service(SANBS) cites the following as the top six excuses people give for hanging on to their blood:
- "I am afraid of the needle." Well yes. But you’re a grownup and you’d better get over this one because there is no way you're going to get through life without a member of the medical profession needing to give you an injection or take blood sooner or later. Some people say they're worried about getting HIV from the needle when donating, but that's not possible: a new, sterile needle is used each time, and you see the nurse opening it in front of you. The blood bags are also brand new; they don't get washed and re-used!
- "It will hurt and I will faint." It will hurt a little bit, of course it will, but only briefly and much less than, say, stubbing your toe or getting a paper cut. As for the fainting, you can reduce the chances of that happening considerably if you make sure you’ve had something to eat and drink beforehand. And if you do still faint, it’s most likely to happen when you’re already seated and surrounded by solicitous health professionals.
- "Other people are giving enough." Less than one percent of the South African population donates, while around 80% of us will need blood in our lifetimes.
- "My blood isn’t the right type." Nice try. Regular donations of all blood types are needed.
- "I had an illness." OK, this might be legit, but it might very well not be, especially if the illness happened twenty years ago. You can easily find out by asking the staff at your local blood donation centre, or phoning the South African National Blood Service (0800 119 031).
- "I don’t have enough blood to spare." It's my blood, I made it, I need it. Actually you don't - not all of it all the time: the average adult body contains approximately five litres of blood and a donation is only 480ml i.e. less than 10%. And there's plenty more where that came from; the beauty of it is your body keeps making more. The only people who have an excuse here are those weighing under 50kg.
So, ready to donate?
Check out the SANBS directory to find a blood donor centre near you. You can also SMS your NAME and POSTAL CODE of the area you live in to 31454 to receive the details of your nearest centre. Donors in the Western Cape can donate via the WP Blood Transfusion Service.