July 10, 2014 7:02 pm

5 things to know about donating blood

Watch above: Five things to know about donating blood

TORONTO – The supply of blood in Canada is at a five-year low at a time of year when donations are hard to come by.

While the demand for blood is steady all-year-round, Global News medical correspondent Dr. Samir Gupta said the supply of blood is lowest in the middle of the summer.

“People are away from home, at the cottage for example or on vacation,” he said.

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Donated blood is commonly used in emergencies like car accidents or surgeries.

However, most of the blood donated in Canada is used for people who have conditions that can lead to reduced blood levels like cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy, Gupta said.

He suggested the low donation rate may be a result of awareness: people just don’t know there’s a demand for the blood.

He offered five things to know about blood donation:

1. You can’t do it too frequently

Gupta said people should wait approximately 56 days between blood donations to give the body time to replenish itself – that means a person could easily donate six pints annually.

2. There are weight limits but only between certain ages

You have to be at least 17 years old and 110 pounds to donate blood – but if you are between 17 and 23, the weight restriction does not apply, and eligibility depends on both weight and height.

3. Have a new tattoo or piercing? Don’t give blood… yet

Canadian Blood Services asks that you wait at least six months after getting a piercing or tattoo before you donate blood because some of the infectious diseases associated with those activities can not be detected immediately.

4. Are there any risks? Not really

You probably have that friend who says they will always faint when getting their blood taken – well, if that’s true, they are part of a small group.

Less than 10 per cent of people will feel tired after donating blood and approximately five per cent will feel light-headed or nauseous, Gupta said.

The average donation is roughly 450 millimetres while the average person generally has approximately five litres flowing through them.

“There are very, very low risks from blood donations,” Gupta said.

5. It doesn’t matter what blood type you have

O-Negative is the blood type used in emergencies because it can be given to anyone despite their blood type.

But, as Gupta explained, health care professionals prefer to use the person’s distinct blood type.

So whatever your blood type is, roll up your sleeve and donate.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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