How does blood donation work and how does it affect the donor? | Right away

Not only your organs can be useful to donate, but also your blood. In the Netherlands, 350,000 Dutch people give half a litre of blood once or several times a year. “We don’t want excess: blood has a limited shelf life.”

It is Sunday 14 June, World Blood Donor Day, which was launched in 2004 by the WHO. At 53 locations in the Netherlands, the Sanquin blood bank collects blood and plasma from donors every day.

The blood goes to hospitals, says Marloes Metal of Sanquin. “We call on donors, depending on the blood that hospitals need. Our goal is to collect enough and safe blood for the hospitals.”

“On average, 4,500 people a year leave during or after a donation.”

Katja van den Hurk, Donor Health Researcher at Sanquin

“We always try to have a week of blood in stock for the hospitals,” Says Metaal. “We shouldn’t have an excess either, because blood is short-lived.” In principle, Sanquin has enough blood donors, although more is always better to relieve other donors.

The collected plasma is processed into plasma drugs. About 50 percent of the demand for plasma drugs is made with the plasma of Dutch donors. The other half of the drugs come from international pharmaceutical companies.

“That’s how we can always use plasma dispensers,” says Metaal. “For example, the drugs are used in a number of autoimmune diseases, infections and coaining diseases. Plasma is now also developing a drug for corona.”

A total of 300 blood types

Enough blood from the eight most common blood types is donated. “A-positive and 0-positive are most common in the Netherlands, including donors. There are a total of 300 blood types. Non-common blood types, such as the blood groups of people from non-Western backgrounds, are still deficient.”

Most of the blood taken is used to promote the recovery of cancer patients: 30 percent. In addition, the blood is used as a supplement in hospital patients, for example after an accident or a birth.

What are the requirements and rules for blood donation?

  • Women are allowed to donate blood up to three times a year
  • Men up to five times a year
  • Plasma can be administered every two weeks
  • Blood donors must be healthy
  • You must not weigh less than 50 kilos
  • And between 18 and 79 years old
  • drug use, tattoos (due to infections) and drug use
  • A man who had sex with a man must wait four months for donation
  • There must be enough hemoglobin in your blood, this will be checked in advance

Fainting after the Donither

What is it like for the donor to lose half a litre of blood? ‘It’s not harmful to you. If you’re healthy, you can do it well,” Metaal says.

The most commonly reported symptom after a donation is fatigue. In second place comes dizziness. “Half a litre is about 10 percent of the blood you have in your body,” says Marianne Geleijnse, an expert in blood pressure and cardiovascular disease at Wageningen University. “After the donation, less blood flows into the brain and therefore less oxygen.”

“Blood donation has a proven positive effect when someone has far too much iron in their blood.”

Marianne Geleine, scientist

“On average, 4,500 people leave each year during or after a donation,” says Katja van den Hurk, donor health researcher at Sanquin. Usually this is because of the tension, or because someone hastily or hasnotd enough or had a drink.

A few weeks after the donation, the red blood cells in your body are back on track. “You have a lower iron content during this time, but if you’re healthy, it won’t cause any major problems,” says Geleijnse.

Blood collected from Sanquin blood bank. (Photo: Pro Shots)

Indication of a positive link with cardiovascular diseases

So there are no disadvantages for the donation, but are there any advantages for the donor? In 2007, Geleijnse examined 400 donors and 200 non-donors about the possible positive effects on cardiovascular disease. The lower iron level in your blood would have a positive effect.

“If you donate blood, you will receive a free health check.”

Marianne Geleine, scientist

“Donors who had donated twice a year and/or donated blood more than 49 times in their lives seemed less susceptible to atherosclerosis,” geleijnse says. “We therefore do not rule out the fact that there is a favourable relationship. But the proof that it really has an effect on these diseases is not so convincing that you should donate to it. Research after 2007 also pointed to this.”

Blood donation has a proven positive effect when someone has far too much iron in their blood, says Geleijnse. “This occurs, for example, in the disease hemochromatosis. People with these diseases even receive advice from a doctor to start donating blood.”

According to Geleijnse, it is particularly beneficial to donate blood that you get a free health check. “You’re back to your health and that’s an interesting bycatch.”