Teen Blood Donors Should Take Steps to Prevent Complications
< May 21, 2008 > -- US blood collection centers face a conundrum: at a time of decreasing blood donations, a new study shows that an important source of current and future donations, 16- and 17-year-olds, are more likely to bruise, faint, or experience other complications when they donate.
That means this critical pool of young donors may be less likely to give in the future, experts say.
"Most donors in all age groups have uncomplicated donations," stresses Dr. Anne Eder, executive medical officer of biomedical services at the American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C. "What was surprising was how much young donors contribute to the blood supply. The other important finding was that 16- and 17-year-olds were more likely to return to give blood again, but even a minor reaction like dizziness or other symptoms will reduce the likelihood that they will donate again."
These findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Teens Blood Donors are Vital
Due to factors including increased restrictions - such as screening for West Nile virus and Chagas disease ( a condition caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi) - only an estimated 38 percent of the US adult population is currently eligible to donate blood.
Between 2001 and 2004, there was a 0.2 percent decrease in blood donations in the United States, even though the number of transfusions rose by 2 percent.
Luckily, donations from young people, who are less likely to have infectious diseases, have been on the rise. By 2005, donors aged 16 to 19 represented 14.5 percent of annual donation, with 16- and 17-year-olds contributing 8 percent of the units collected by the Red Cross. About 80 percent of these donations come from high school blood drives. At the same time, the rate of donations from older individuals has declined.
The authors estimate that if 16-year-olds nationwide had the opportunity to donate blood, an additional 200,000 units of blood could be added to the current annual collection of 15 million units.
Giving Without Harming
Most states allow blood donation by 17-year-olds without parental consent. Only 22 states or US territories allow donation by 16-year-olds with parental consent, and just two allow donation by 16-year-olds without parental consent. The Red Cross does not accept donations from 15-year-olds, requires parental consent for 16-year-olds, and follows state regulations for 17-year-olds.
However, "there is an ever- increasing demand for blood donations with a decreasing pool of donors," says Dr. Peter Richel, head of pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, New York. "Therefore, what's big is high-school blood drives. There's a sense of community and learning to give."
But will that giving continue if fainting, bruising, and other problems persist?
Three Times The Risk
The authors of this study analyzed data collected from nine American Red Cross blood centers that routinely collect blood from 16- and 17-year-olds.
Complications occurred in 10.7 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds and 8.3 percent of 18- to 19-year-olds. That is compared to a rate of only 2.8 percent for adults aged 20 and over.
Overall, 16- and 17-year-old donors were three times more likely to experience complications compared to donors aged 20 and above, first-time donors were almost three times as likely to experience complications compared to repeat donors, and females were almost twice as likely to experience donation-linked complications compared to males. There were some regional variations as well, the team says.
Injuries related to fainting (including concussion, stitches, and broken jaws) were more than twice as frequent in 16- and 17-year-olds as in 18- and 19-year olds and more than 14.5 times as likely than in the over-20 group.
These incidents can influence the willingness of young donors to donate blood again, the researchers found. Only 52 percent of 16-year-olds who experienced a problem, no matter how minor, returned for a repeat donation within a year, versus 73 percent of those whose donation went smoothly.
"We want donors to have a good experience, and there are a number of ways to do that. Every step is important," Dr. Eder says. "We collect these safety data so we have a baseline and can monitor and further our effort to improve the donor's experience."
Steps already well-known to reduce donation-linked problems include drinking lots of water, getting a good night's sleep, and eating a nutritious meal before inserting the needle for blood collection, experts say.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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Are You a Potential Donor?
According to the Red Cross, under normal circumstances, every two seconds someone in America will need a blood transfusion.
Blood transfusions are used for trauma victims - due to accidents and burns - heart surgery, organ transplants, women with complications during childbirth, newborns and premature babies, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer, or other diseases, such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia.
The emergence of HIV in the 1980s highlighted the importance of ensuring the safety, as well as the adequacy, of national blood supplies, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Voluntary blood donors donate blood of their own free will for altruistic reasons and get no reward except personal satisfaction.
Patients who receive this blood may feel a sense of gratitude toward others whom they will never meet. As national blood programs move towards the goal of total voluntary donation, there is an increasing appreciation of these donors and their important role in ensuring a safe blood supply.
It is important that these contributions be recognized and valued by the community.
According to the most recent data from the National Blood Data Resource Center, US hospitals transfused nearly 14 million units of whole blood and red blood cells to 4.9 million patients in 2001 - that is an average of 38,000 units of blood needed on any given day.
Whole blood can be separated into its separate components of red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitate. The total number of units of all of these components transfused in 2001 was 29 million. And the volume of blood transfused has increased at the rate of 6 percent per year. In emergency conditions such as war or disaster, the need for blood may change.
Typically, each donated unit of blood - referred to as whole blood - is separated into multiple components, such as red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitated AHF (antihemophilic factor).
Each component can be transfused to different individuals with different needs. Therefore, each donation can be used to help save as many as three lives.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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