Blood Donation in Nigeria; All You need to know

Blood is very rare to find, and much rare are the voluntary non-remunerated blood donors. It is said that the best form of blood to give a sick person is blood from a voluntary blood donor. This is also most preferred by public health workers, blood banks, and hospitals. The current state of voluntary blood donation in Nigeria is something that is worth discussing. This is because a lot of people do not know how it works, their rights, the requirements, etc. What is much worse are the myths associated with blood donation in Nigeria.

A lot of people still feel scandalized by the concept of blood donation even with the overload of information on this topic. And I think it is very necessary that this topic is thrashed down here once and for all.

Before we start discussing the current state of voluntary blood donation in Nigeria, it is good we understand what blood donation means.

What is Blood Donation

Blood donation is said to have taken place when someone willingly allows their blood to be drawn out of their veins which is given to another patient in need of blood. Or the blood is separated into one or more parts of the blood like plasma, platelets, clotting factors which are still given to a patient who is in need of blood or any of the mentioned products.

The whole process of blood donation should be completely and healthy for both the donor and the receiver.

Types of Voluntary Blood Donation

Voluntary blood donation is divided into two types;

  • Voluntary Non-remunerated Blood donation (Free-will blood donation)
  • Voluntary Paid Blood Donors

The voluntary non-remunerated blood donors are those blood donors who voluntarily donate blood without the intention to receive any form of compensation. These are also called free-will blood donors or non-paid donors.

You Should Not Know Which Patient Receives Your Blood

To make sure that a blood donation process is completely based on free-will and zero bias, it is run in a blind-fold manner. This means that as a free-will blood donor, you are not expected to know which patient receives your blood or even meet the patient relatives.

Although this may not be so in some cases, it is the ideal thing to make sure that the free-will donors do not go behind the scene to seek compensation or special favor from the patient’s relatives. It could be tagged as a form of blackmail.

On the other hand, Voluntary paid blood donors are those people who donate blood because of the rewards they may get from it. Rewards could be in form of money or any other form of compensation.

The compensations, in this case, should not be misunderstood as incentives that may be given to voluntary blood donors by organizations like the red cross, and the rest. In this case, the paid donors donate the blood with the view of getting the compensations while the non-paid blood donors just donate blood with nothing in mind, but may still receive benefits that may come from donating blood.

Why Blood banks Prefer Free-will Blood Donors

Based on the trends observed in various blood banks in Nigeria among paid donors, below are the reasons why blood banks in Nigeria take extra care while dealing with paid donors.

The major reason is that paid donors are more likely to cut corners to make sure they donate blood and get paid. This could be as worse as doping to boost their red cell count, or lying about being infected with blood transmissible infections.

Also, paid donors are more likely to neglect the rule governing how often one can donate blood and may end up putting themselves at potential health risks.

Blood Components that May Be Donated

If someone tells you they are going to donate blood, for a layman, the first impression is that they are going to donate the red blood cells which is the most easily seen of all the components of blood.

But we should know that there are many other components of blood that could still be donated and which can be helpful to a patient. But the problem with these other blood products is that many health facilities in Nigeria do currently have the capacity to separate these other components of blood and give the needed parts to the patient while returning the other parts to the donor.

Also, in the very few facilities where this procedure could be done, you find out it is usually very expensive. So the blood bank just transfuses the whole blood from the donor to the patient.

Now this brings us to two very important topics; the whole blood transfusion and the blood component transfusion.

Whole Blood Transfusion

The whole blood transfusion involves the transfusion of all the blood components as it is without the removal of any constituent. This type is the most popular form of blood transfusion in Nigeria.

whole blood
whole blood

The components of whole blood include:

Red cells: Usually given to people suffering from anemia, iron deficiency, and related illnesses.

Platelets transfusion: Platelets are given to sick people who are suffering from a bleeding disorder.

Plasma donation: Plasma is the liquid that other components of blood flow on. It contains very important proteins, chemicals, clotting factors that play various roles in the body. It is usually given to patients with severe infections, burns, liver failure, etc.

The other type of blood transfusion occurs when one or more of the above components of whole blood is separated by a process called Apheresis, and then transfused to the patient, while the rest of the blood components are transfused back to the donor.

This second method is actually healthier for both the donor and the recipient, but it is more expensive.

How Voluntary Blood Donation Works in Nigeria

If you are planning to participate in voluntary blood donation in Nigeria, you should know that all blood banks and blood donation centers in the country are not exactly the same. Some will always be more effective, have more friendly staff, and may even offer incentives to both free-will and paid donors. But in all, the process is basically the same everywhere in Nigeria.

To actually help you understand the process of voluntary Blood donation in Nigeria, I will be using my own personal experience so that you can relate better to it. And of course, it was a non-remunerated voluntary blood donation.

For the sake of privacy, I will not be mentioning the health care facility where I donated the blood, but will just share tips based on my own experience.

1. Preparing For Voluntary Blood Donation in Nigeria

Blood donation is not just something you decide to do in a few days and delve into it. It has very strict rules and guidelines which must be followed for your own safety and that of the person you are donating to.

Remember that blood donation should be safe and healthy for both the donor and the recipient, that is why the blood donation requirements were drafted out to guide blood banks in checking out for people who meet the criteria for blood donation.

Also, in the process of checking if one is eligible for blood donation, series of tests are done on the donor to guide the blood bank.

The reason why these pre-blood donation tests are taken very seriously in many countries of low economic status is because of fraudulent donors. By now you should have known that in some countries, some people are paid to donate blood; the paid blood donors.

These paid blood donors in a bid to make more money may do all sorts of things to manipulate their way into passing all the blood donation checks and tests which will, in turn, put both the patients and the paid donors at serious health risks if the blood bank is not very strict with their eligibility tests.

There are things you can find out yourself to see if you are eligible for blood donation, and there are others that can only be done at the blood bank.

The Things You Do Yourself Before Going to the Blood Bank

  • First, you must be 18-65 year old
  • Ensure that you have not donated blood for the past 3 months
  • Make sure you are not suffering from any form of Blood (transfusion) transmissible infections like HIV, Hepatitis, etc.
  • Ensure you are not a pregnant or breastfeeding mother
  • You must not be suffering from some critical diseases like hypertension, cancer, etc.
  • You should feed well on balanced diets within the few days before donating blood.
  • Drink plenty of water before going to the blood bank for blood donation
  • Wear a convenient clothe before going to donate blood. Short leaves or sleeveless shirts are much preferred.

You will find out if you meet all the blood donation requirements at the blood bank, and then you will be told if you are eligible to donate blood depending on their findings.

Other Requirements and Eligibility Criteria for Blood donation

1. Age Requirements for Blood Donation

The blood donor must be an adult aged between 18 – 65 years for both males and females. In some countries of high economic status like the United States, it is 17 – 70 years.

But you must not be more than 60 years of age at your first donation. So if you have not yet donated blood before, and you are already 60 years of age, you can find other ways of being charitable to humanity.

Why Younger and Older Persons cannot donate

According to JAMA and Archives Journals, the reason why children below the age of 17 are not allowed to donate blood is that some studies have shown that they are more prone to suffer some complications related to blood donation like bruising and fainting than their older counterparts.

Also, another reason why children below the age of 17 are not allowed to donate blood is that they have not yet reached the legal age of consent which is 18 in Nigeria. People of younger ages having lower iron reserves could also be a source of minor concern.

As for the older people aged above 65 years, they do not meet the requirements for blood donation because their bone marrow has a lower capacity of producing blood cells because as we age, our bone marrow is gradually replaced by fibro-fatty tissues with little stem cells for blood regeneration.

2. Weight Criteria for Blood Donation

One cannot be eligible for blood donation without their weights being checked. For you to be eligible for blood donation, it is required that you weigh at least 50 kg (110 pounds or 7 stone 12 pounds).

The reason why people who weigh less than 50kg cannot donate is that they are more likely to suffer from some adverse effects linked to low blood volumes like dizziness, fainting, and hypotension.

Although I have seen some people who weigh 48kg who donate blood and still come out healthy and sound with proper fluid replacement, please do not try this without consulting your physician.

If you want to start your fitness journey and maintain a healthy weight, it will be good to see the answers to common questions that fitness newbies ask based on an interview.

3. Height and Weight Blood Donation Requirements

The height and weight requirements to donate blood are summed up by what is known as Body Mass Index (BMI).

The body mass index is the marker for the nutritional status of a person. It is derived by measuring a person’s weight in Kilogram (kg) and dividing it by the person’s height in square meters.

BMI = Weight/Height2

Unit = Kg/M2

You may wonder why you cannot donate blood even when you above 50kg. There is this misconception that most people I know have about blood donation, and it is that fat persons or heavier people have more blood than their normal or skinny counterparts.

Now you may also want to ask; what if someone weighs above 50kg but is not up to 4 feet tall; will they be eligible for blood donation?

The answer is No!

So that is why the Body Mass Index is used to help blood banks to ascertain the nutritional status of a person.

The table below summarizes the height and weight requirements to donate blood (BMI):

Body Mass Index (Kg/M2)Nutritional Status
Less than 18Malnourished
18-24Healthy (Normal)
25 – 29Overweight
30-34Mild Obesity
35-49Moderate Obesity
More than 50Morbid Obesity
BMI (Height and weight requirements to donate blood)

 So if you check your Body Mass Index and it does not fall within the healthy range of 18 – 24 Kg/M2, then you will not be eligible for blood donation.

Still confused about the Body Mass Index? Find out more about it on wikipedia.

4. Hemoglobin Level Required to Donate Blood

Hemoglobin is the chemical (protein) that helps carry the oxygen in our red blood cells. The hemoglobin concentration level is the amount of hemoglobin in grams present in one deciliter of our blood. It is measured in grams/dl.

The hemoglobin concentration level is the factor that helps not just to check if we can donate blood. But also, tells us how much blood we can donate at a time.

The Normal Hemoglobin concentration level for males is 13-17g/dl and 12-15g/dl for females. So if you have anything below this normal range of hemoglobin concentration, you are not eligible for blood donation.

In most health facilities in Nigeria where there is no hemoglobinometer; a machine used to check the hemoglobin concentration level, is derived indirectly from the pack cell volume (hematocrit) which is easily measured using a special centrifuge. The hemoglobin concentration is then calculated by dividing the PCV by 3.

The Normal PCV (hematocrit) is 45 – 52 % for males and 35 to 45% for females.

5. Time Interval Between Blood Donation

It takes an average of 120 days for new blood to replace old blood cells. So after each episode of blood donation, you are expected to wait for at least 120 days (12 weeks or 3 months).

So in a year, you are allowed to donate just 3 times. This also answers the question; how often can you donate blood?

6. Can You Donate Blood While Pregnant or Breast-Feeding?

Pregnant women and women who are currently breastfeeding their babies are not allowed to donate blood because, in the process of blood donation, lots of iron are lost from the body, and such women require a high amount of iron in such periods.

7. Blood Donation and People with Cardiovascular Diseases

If you are diagnosed of one or more of the cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, then you are at risk of suffering some serious complications linked to low blood volume after an episode of blood donation. So it is advised that such people should not donate blood.

8. People With Significant Respiratory Disorders

Respiratory disorders are those disorders that affect our airways and lungs, making it difficult for one to get access to breathe in oxygen. People with significant respiratory disorders are prone to suffering hypoxia from low blood oxygen a cannot donate.

Such respiratory disorders that makes one ineligible to donate blood include;
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Asthma (chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases)
  • Lung Cancer
  • Bronchitis (Inflammation of the airways), etc.
9. Brain Disorders and Eligibility for Blood Donation

Suffering from certain brain disorders like epilepsy makes you not to be eligible for blood donation.

10. Gastrointestinal Disorders and Eligibility For Blood Donation

Remember that iron is important in the process of blood formation, and the bulk of the iron we eat is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.

There are also certain chemicals in the stomach that play very important roles in the absorption of iron, and an example is an Intrinsic factor that is produced by the parietal cells in the stomach.

So suffering from any disease that may affect the digestion and absorption of iron, folic acid and other important nutrients that help in the formation of blood automatically makes you ineligible for blood donation.

Examples of such diseases or conditions that may affect absorption include:
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome
  • Celiac Disease
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Prolonged use of some drugs like tetracycline and some antibiotics, colchicine, or cholestyramine
  • Exposure to Radiation may damage the lining of the stomach and intestines
  • Some parasitic infestations
  • Some surgeries that involves the resection of the intestines, etc.

Learn more about the diseases that interfere with food absorption on healthline.

11. Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus

Insulin-dependent diabetes Mellitus is a disease condition in which the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin. Such persons are usually placed on insulin therapy and hence not eligible for blood donation.

This is because of the effect of blood donations on insulin levels.

12. Chronic Kidney Diseases and Eligibility For Blood Donation

The kidney cortex is the center for the production of a protein called erythropoietin which is very essential in the production of red blood cells.

So people with chronic kidney diseases may have a deficiency in erythropoietin levels, hence cannot donate blood.

13. People who are Undergoing Clinical Trials or Medical Investigations

People who are undergoing clinical trials are not permitted to donate blood. Such persons are expected to be placed under surveillance in case of any health challenges that may arise during the period of the clinical trials, hence cannot donate blood at that time.

14. Donors with Certain Occupations Cannot Donate Blood

There are certain occupations that may make someone not eligible for blood donations. This is because of a scenario called delayed fainting; meaning that they faint when they return to their places of work thereby exposing them to serious risks.

People with the following occupations are affected:
  • Drivers
  • Pilots
  • Heavy machine operators (example crane operators)
  • Miners
  • Scaffolding, etc.
15. Can you Donate Blood with Tattoos?

There is another myth about blood donation; that people with tattoos are not eligible for blood donation.

While this is a misconception, on the other hand, people who got their tattoos from non-recognized facilities, and people who have not stayed at least 6 months after their last tattoo are not allowed to donate blood.

16. Can You Donate Blood After Getting Vaccinated?

You are not allowed to donate blood if you have not stayed up to 2 months since your last vaccination.

The reason could be linked to the fact that our body needs time to build enough antibodies against the disease they are being vaccinated for which means we need to give it more time to do this.

17. ABO Incompatibility and Eligibility For Blood Donation

Blood donation charts are available to help us know our ABO compatibility. People with certain blood types are not allowed to donate blood to people with other blood types.

The Blood Donation chart below summarizes all you need to know about the ABO compatibility:
Blood TypeGivesReceives
A+A+, AB+A+, A, O+, O
O+O+, A+, AB+, B+O+, O
B+AB+, B+B+, B, O+, O
AB+AB+Everyone
AA+, A, AB+, ABA, O
OEveryoneO
BB+, B, AB+, AB B, O
ABAB+, ABA, AB,B, O
Blood Donation Chart

So the blood donation chart above sums up the blood donation requirements for different Blood groups.

18. Certain Viral Infections and Eligibility for Blood Donation

There are certain blood transmissible viral infections and they include;

  • HIV/AIDS (Type 1 and 2)
  • Hepatitis B Virus
  • Hepatitis C Virus
  • Human T-cell Leukaemia Virus (HTLV)
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) – for immunosuppressed recipients.
19. Can You Donate Blood If You Have Malaria?

People suffering from certain protozoal diseases like malaria are not eligible for blood donation in some countries like the United States, the U.K, and other non-endemic regions.

But in the tropics and sub-Saharan regions of Africa like Nigeria where malaria is endemic, Malaria test is not done routinely before blood donation.

20. People Suffering from Other Diseases

People suffering from other diseases like Syphilis, Prion disease (Creutzfold Jacob’s disease), and Chagas disease are not eligible for blood donations.

How Much Blood Do You Donate at a time?

One of the blood donation requirements is that every healthy adult weighing about 61kg to 81kg, they have an average of 4.5 Liters to 5Liters of blood circulating in their blood vessels.

This whole blood makes up about 10% of the total body weight.

So how much blood do you donate at a time?

The answer to this question is not clear cut except for healthy persons. For example, there are weird illnesses where the people affected are actually suffering from the overproduction of blood cells. This illness is called Polycythemia Vera.  In such conditions, one of the major treatments given to such patients is the removal of the excess circulating blood in a process called therapeutic phlebotomy.

So how much blood patients with Polycythemia vera can donate may be totally different from how much blood a normal healthy adult can donate.

NOTE: The American Association of the Red Cross do not accept blood donations from patients with Polycythemia vera, although some health centers do.

But for a healthy adult aged between 18 years to 65 years, they can only donate one pint (470 ml) of blood at a time. This is also known as one unit of blood and makes up about 8% of the total blood volume for a healthy adult.

But on some occasions when such persons have a very optimum packed cell volume and Hemoglobin concentration level, they may give up to 2 units of blood at a time, and take lots of fluid to replenish the plasma lost.

What is an Optimum Hemoglobin Concentration Level and Packed Cell Volume?

Note: There is a relationship between our Hemoglobin concentration level and our Packed cell volume (PCV):

PCV  = Hemoblogin concentration X 3

For Males:

The normal hemoglobin concentration level for a healthy male is 13mg/dl to 17mg/dl.

So for each unit of blood that a healthy adult male donates, he loses 1mg/dl of hemoglobin.

 If the male has up to 17mg/dl of hemoglobin, donating 2 units of blood will make them lose 2mg/dl of hemoglobin, and they will still be comfortable as long they take plenty of water and fluids to replenish the plasma lost.

Also, the normal packed cell volume for an adult male is 40 – 52%. 

For Females:

A normal healthy female has an average of 11mg/dl to 15mg/dl of hemoglobin.

Although they can, it is not advisable for females to donate more than two units of blood at a time because of their monthly loss during their menstrual cycle.

Moreover, normal adult females have a normal PCV level of 35 – 47%

Why You Should Know How Often Can You Donate Blood

You may have witnessed some occasions where someone you care about is in need of blood or an emergency situation where many pints of blood are needed to help save lives. If you are not well guided as to how often can you donate blood, or how long you should wait till your next blood donation, you may end up being at risk of donating more blood than you should at a given time.

How Long Does It Take For Old Blood to be Replaced?

The process by which old blood replaces new ones is called hemopoiesis; also called hematopoiesis.

It is also good to note that the whole blood which we donate is made up of the following components:

Red blood cells (Erythrocytes)

White Blood Cells (Leukocytes) and

Platelets (Thrombocytes)

But for every blood we donate, we not only give the above three components. We also give another very important component called Blood Plasma. This blood plasma is what carries all our body proteins, enzymes, hormones, and other important chemicals around our body.

So it takes approximately 120 days for hemopoiesis to be completed and for the old blood to be replaced by the new ones.

Where Does this Hemopoiesis take Place?

Before we are born, the process of blood production (hemopoiesis) occurs in specialized body tissues like;

  • The Yolk Sac of the Developing Embryo
  • Liver of the Fetus (unborn baby)

As the fetus continues to grow and mature, the process continues in the Spleen, Lymphatic tissues, and finally the red bone marrows.

So as adults, hemopoiesis occurs in the bone marrow. But in some occasions like when a disease like cancer attacks the bone marrow, it loses some of its ability to produce new blood cells, and then the liver, spleen, and lymphatic tissues are forced to take up this role of hemopoiesis again.

The process whereby the liver and spleen takes up the role of hemopoiesis in adults is known as Extra-medullary hemopoiesis.

What Happens to the Old Blood Cells?

As blood cells continue to age, they reach a point when they die off and the components which consist mostly of proteins are reabsorbed by the body and used in the production of new blood cells or are excreted out of the body.

For instance, red blood cells consist mainly of hemoglobin (iron) which is taken back to the bone marrow by a protein known as transferrin where it is used for the production of new blood cells and then another chemical which is also found in hemoglobin (bilirubin) is excreted in bile where it gives our feces their yellow color.

Also, see the important Blood donation charts, compatibility, and other facts.

So the next question is; how often can you donate blood?

How Often Can You Donate Blood?

How Much Blood Do You Donate at a time
How Much Blood Do You Donate at a time

Now the question; how often can you donate blood is a very important one, although the answers can be derived from the above descriptions.

One can easily deduce how often he/she can donate blood from how long it takes our body to replenish the blood lost during blood donation.

So after each episode of blood donation, it is expected that you wait for at least 120 days (3 months/12 weeks) before you can donate again. This is to give our body some time to replenish the nutrients it has lost during that time such as iron.

It is best to keep a calendar that helps you know when next you are eligible to donate blood so that you can always keep it in mind.

Blood plasma is also another very important component of blood that can be donated as well. It can be separated from whole blood in a process known as plasma apheresis using a machine. Blood plasma has the capacity to be regenerated every two (2) weeks, making it possible to be donated once in two weeks. This means that plasma can be donated at least 24 times a year.

Also, Find out where you can donate blood in your state in Nigeria

2. Getting to the Blood Bank

Ideally, there are meant to be staff whose job is to guide voluntary blood donors on what to do when they get to the blood bank. And usually, more preferences are given to the free-will blood donors and they are usually first attended to before any paid donor.

But in my own experience, there seemed to be a few staff available, as well as laboratory equipment used in running the eligibility tests in the blood banks compared to the number of voluntary donors present on that day.

But the first step you should take on getting to the blood bank as a free-will blood donor is to either meet the most senior person around and introduce yourself stating clearly that you are a free-will blood donor.

The Eligibility Tests Before Blood Donation

After this, the next step in my own case was that the secretary recorded my biodata in a blood bank record book. The information they asked for included:

  • My full name
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Address
  • Blood Group, Genotype (This is routinely asked even though it would still be tested for)
  • Phone Number/Contact details

After this, I was directed to a nearby room where a Medical laboratory attendant took some samples of my blood from my left arm using a syringe. This was after she cleaned the area with a spirit swab. The blood sample was going to be used to check if I was eligible for blood donation. Usually, you are asked to choose which arm you want the blood sample to be collected from.

blood donation requirements
blood sample collection

Most people prefer the blood sample to be collected from their dominant arm (usually the right arm for most people) so that they could donate the blood using their non-dominant arm. The reason is so that assuming such issues arise from the process of blood donation, you may not have much to worry about since your dominant arm is intact. But usually, no many issues arise from blood donation.

After the sample is collected, the lab attendant runs a series of blood tests on you including; your blood group, genotype, Viral screening, and other eligibility tests.

Also, Read; Blood Type Charts, Genotypes, and Grouping

This usually should not take up to 45 minutes to one hour. But in my case, I had to wait for close to 2 hours because there were fewer machines available for the test, and the blood samples to be tested were much on that day.

3. The Counselling Before Blood Donation

counselling before blood donation
counselling

When your test result is ready, you will be called into another private room called the counseling room. Here, you will meet a specialist who will reveal your lab results to you, and tell you if you are eligible to donate blood.

Remember to check the eligibility criteria for blood donation to find out more about when you can donate blood.

When you have met all the Laboratory blood donation requirements, you will now go to the nutritional and fitness status check. This is one of the benefits of blood donation because all these tests are carried out on you for free plus free counseling without you having to pay a dime.

These other tests will help you find out if you are physically fit and healthy donate blood.

The following are checked for your nutrition and fitness status:

  • Your Height
  • Weight
  • Body Mass Index (Calculated from your height and weight)
  • Blood Pressure
  • Pulse rate and
  • Temperature

Also, the counselor will find out when last you donated blood, and if you have any illness, occupation, or lifestyle that could prevent you from donating blood.

Once the tests are complete, and you are eligible for blood donation, you will now be taken to the ‘bleeding room’.

4. The Bleeding Room

The name bleeding room can actually sound scary especially if it’s your first day, and maybe you hear something like:

“take this donor to the bleeding room”…lol

The bleeding room is just a place specially designed for blood donation to take place. It should ideally be very conducive for the donors and contain things like; a comfortable bed, air conditioner, some blood banks may even have a stereo playing cool music and the likes.

So you lie down on the bed, while a nurse or a trained blood bank attendant puts a needle into your preferred arm and connects it to a special blood bag with anti-coagulants to make sure it does not clot. But before the needle is inserted into your arm, the area where the needle is to be inserted is first cleaned with a spirit swab (methylated spirit and cotton wool).

Then you are given a small cylindrical container or a pen, which you place in the palm of the hand the blood is collecting from. And you are told to squeeze the pen or the object until the blood bag is full.

The reason for the squeezing is that it makes the process faster.  

Is the Blood Donation Process Painful?

Well, for me I would say it is just like receiving an injection. It is usually painful at the insertion of the needle and at the removal of the needle. But during the process, you are not supposed to feel much pain.

But I really cannot speak for everyone as we all have different pain thresholds. And what may be less painful for some people will be more painful for some. So it is best experienced than being told.

5. What Happens After Blood Donation?

Once the blood bag is full, the nurse will safely remove the needle, and then place cotton wool over the area that was punctured, and then uses plaster to hold it in place. You should not remove the cotton wool till after about 15-30 minutes when the place is completely closed by blood clots.

Also, you are meant to keep resting on the bed for about 30 to 45 minutes for the remaining blood to recirculate in your body and reach vital organs like your brain. This is to help prevent issues like fainting or hypotension.

You may give snacks, bottled water, Milk and malt, etc after this depending on the blood bank, but in my case, nothing was given. But I found a nearby canteen and got a bottle of water which I finished. This was necessary to prevent fainting.

Regaining Yourself after blood donation

There are a few tips that could help you regain yourself faster after an episode of blood donation, and they include;

Drink plenty of water: This should start from the moment you finish blood donation over the next 24 hours. It takes our body about 12 to 24 hours to replace the fluid we lost during blood donation.

Do not engage in any strenuous physical exercise till 2 days after blood donation. This includes sex, hitting the gym, running, playing football, etc.

Eat well for the next few days. This should include a balanced diet with milk, eggs, and lots of fruits and green leaf vegetables.

Finally, have lots of rest and sleep.

And that’s it!

What are the advantages and Benefits of Blood Donation?

There is no limit to the benefits of blood donation.

Every blood donor saves the live(s) of 1-3 patients. But for some non-remunerated blood donors, there are those who donate blood mainly to save a patient’s life, and those who while saving a patient’s life may have an interest in the benefits of donating blood.

If you are looking out for the non-monetary benefits of blood donation, then this part is for you. You will be discovering mainly the health benefits of blood donation and the psychological benefits of blood donation with many other advantages of blood donation.

Most of the facts below are verifiable while some are based on deduction.

Saving Lives! The Main Benefit of Blood Donation

Have you ever been opportune to save the life of a friend, family member or loved one, or even a stranger? The sense of fulfillment that comes from it is something worth experiencing. So the main purpose or the ultimate benefit of blood donation is to save lives. But this time, not just that of your loved ones, but even strangers who may not even get to thank you later.

The Health Benefits of Blood Donation

Since the year 2013, lots of research work have been going on by health experts to find the relationship between blood donation and predisposition to suffering from certain illnesses.

The following are the health benefits of donating blood:

1. Reduces the Risk of Hemochromatosis

This is the the basic principle from which most other health benefits of blood donation are derived from.

Hemochromatosis is also known as iron overload and happens when a person has excess iron in the body causing it to deposit in various important organs of the body like the liver, heart, etc, and causing serious health concerns.

What is the Link Between Blood donation and Decreased Risk of Hemochromatosis?

As you may have heard, hemoglobin which is the major component of red blood cells has a high iron content. So donating blood means getting rid of excess iron loads from the body thereby reducing the risk of having hemochromatosis.

2. Could Save You From Developing Cancer

Another advantage of blood donation is that it helps in reducing the chances of survival for cancer cells in the body. Cancer cells feed on our iron stores, and reducing the iron level in the body would mean reducing their chances of survival.

So just as regular blood donation helps in preventing hemochromatosis above, it also helps to prevent the growth of cancer cells in our body.

3. It Could Protect You From Diseases of the Heart and Liver

This follows the same principle of reduced iron overload. Like in hemochromatosis, excess iron deposits in vital organs in our body including our liver, heart, and pancreas. This will cause what is known as liver cirrhosis in the liver, multiple organ damage, and failure with serious health concerns.

4. Increases Production of New Blood Cells

This is one paradox about blood donation. One may ask; how does removing blood from your body increase it’s production?

The answer is simple…

Just as nature abhors vacuum, our body always tries to maintain a balance. This is based on the principle of homeostasis.

So once your body notices that there is a decrease in the quantity of blood, it stimulates the blood production centers in the body to produce more new and fresh blood.

5. Could You Lose Weight By Donating Blood?

A lot of studies have linked weight loss to frequent blood donation. This makes weight loss to be among the health benefits of blood donation.

Free Health Checks

Although is a bit controversial because of the stigma associated with certain sexually transmitted diseases in some parts of the world, but it is still considered one of the benefits of donating blood.

Keeping up to date with your health status without paying a dime has been so easy because of the routine checks for one’s eligibility for blood donation. These health checks include both the minutest o the advanced checks for eligibility.

free health check benefits of donating blood
Free health checks

Basic health Checks

  • Pulse rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Body temperature
  • Body weight and Height (Body mass index)
  • Hemoglobin levels

Disease Screening

  • Human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV/AIDS)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Syphilis
  • West Nile Virus
  • Trypanosoma cruzi
  • Malaria (In some places and in certain conditions)

You get tested for all these diseases and you get an overview of your health status from the basic screening plus free counseling 3 times a year depending on how often you donate blood. This is something a lot of people pay hundreds for.

Psychological Benefits of Donating Blood

psychological benefits of donating blood
psychological benefits of donating blood

This is based on the fact that it feels good to help people. A lot of people are looking for ways of getting rid of guilt probably from their old ways of living or from something they may have done wrong.

Donating blood is a form of charity, and for those who may not have enough money to give to charity and funding schemes, blood donation is a great place to start from.

Below are some of the psychological benefits of donating blood:

  • Blood donation helps in dealing with stress
  • It promotes your emotional well-being and makes you happy
  • It helps you have a fulfilling sense of living
  • It helps you reduce feeling of guilt and other negative emotions
  • It makes you to feel among and reduces loneliness
  • It increases the bond and love between the donor and the recipient (Assuming they are friends or relatives)

And many more!

Also, Read; Blood donation myths and facts

Benefits of Autologous Blood Donation

Autologous blood donation is a condition whereby someone (probably with a rare blood type like AB negative, B negative, or O negative based on the blood donation charts) voluntarily saves up blood for him/herself in case they get sick in the future. This is also referred to as blood donation to self.

This is because it is usually difficult to find people with such rare blood types. So this can be considered a benefit of self-blood donation.

Other Benefits of Blood Donation

Apart from the benefits to the donor and the recipient, there are other benefits of blood donating blood which are very important in promoting health care, and they include:

For Research Purposes

Although this might be laden with some ethical concerns, but it is good that we note it is a very vital advantage of blood donation.

For instance, within the Covid-19 pandemic, many patients who recovered from the virus willingly allowed their serum to be used for tests to see if antibodies against the virus could be used in treating other patients.

This is also important in the development of vaccines against micro-organisms which are the major culprits of various global pandemics.

So research is a good reason to donate blood as it is one of the best ways of saving our planet.

Incentives from Organizations or Bodies Championing Blood Donation Drives

Giving Incentives is a creative way of encouraging voluntary blood donors. Associations like the American Association of the Red Cross have always encouraged blood donation by giving incentives to voluntary non-remunerated blood donors.

Such incentives, though look cheap, but they are still something that makes  a lot of people feel among. They could come in form of:

  • Customized T-shirts and polos
  • Hand bands
  • Badges
  • Certificates
  • Awards of honor for veteran blood donors
  • Free snacks
  • Stickers

Cons, Side-effects, and Disadvantages of Blood Donation

There are not many side effects associated with blood donation especially if the procedure and tests are carried out well. But in a few cases, some donors complain of the following:

1. It Wastes Time

Voluntary Blood donation in Nigeria takes an average of 2 to 3 hours before it is completed. So most people complain that this time is quite much to spend on donating blood.

2. Pain

This is also one of the major complaints a few persons make after donating blood. The truth is that it is not completely painless, but it is also not so painful except you have very low tolerance for pain.

3. It Could lead to Fainting

If you do not follow the guidelines I just shared about your conduct after blood donation, you may be at risk of fainting. This is especially if you fail to take enough water before and immediately after donating blood. And also, if you do not lie down for at least 30 minutes after donating blood.

4. It Could Cause Light-headedness, Dizziness, and Nausea

These are also some of the symptoms one may experience immediately after donating blood.

5. It Could Cause Continuous Bleeding

For people who have issues with blood clotting, the area where the blood was collected may continue to bleed until an intervention is made. This is usually very dangerous if not handled on time.

6. It Causes Bruising and Inflammation of the area

Some people might notice that the area from which they donated blood is inflamed. This appears as a painful swelling that may persist for 3 days or more.

7. Physical Weakness

Our blood contains oxygen and which is supplied to all parts of our body including the muscles that are in charge of physical activity in the body. So after blood donation, one may experience transient weakness due to a decrease in oxygen supply to the muscles.

This also explains why body builders and sports men don not donate blood as often as normal people.

Also, Read; 25 Questions for fitness newbies

8. Others

The last disadvantage is in cases of some people with specific occupations like drivers, pilots, scaffolding, etc. They are at risk of fainting at work after blood donation and could put the lives of many in Danger.

Challenges of Blood Donation in Nigeria

The challenges of blood donation in Nigeria are not so different from the various challenges that affect the efficiency of all other systems in Nigeria. The fact that Nigeria is still a developing country is a huge one because it means that the growth of the Nation is still being tied down by the slow economic growth, corruption, and the likes.

We can easily imagine the challenges that could impede the process of blood donation in Nigeria. The mother of them all being the lack of finance to procure basic facilities needed to keep the blood bank up and running.

The following are the challenges of blood donation in Nigeria:

1. Availability of Blood Banks

Blood banks in Nigeria are not much in number to match the needs of voluntary blood donation in Nigeria. The most functional blood banks in the country are found mainly in University Teaching Hospitals. And the sad news is that not every state in the country has a University Teaching Hospital. Even for those that have, they are either one or two, meaning that the coverage does not reach most rural communities in the state.

Also, some of the available blood banks do not run on a 24 hour basis. Issues that contribute to this include; power failure and low staffing.  

2. Poor Blood Bank Maintenance

The poor maintenance stems from the poor power supply and maintenance culture. This results in the poor utilization of autologous blood units which in most situations need to be stored in the blood banks for a longer time depending on when the donor needs it.

3. Challenges from Commercial Blood Donors

Commercial blood donors are those persons who prefer to donate blood to get paid. This class of people is prone to indulging in certain risky behaviors to help them meet the blood donation requirements.

Some of the challenges posed by Commercial blood donors include;

A. Blood Doping

Doping the act of manipulating your hemoglobin concentration to appear higher than normal even when you have donated more blood than you can that time. Blood doping involves the use of erythropoietin; a glycoprotein hormone that stimulates the production of red cells. This act is also popular among sportsmen and women who are trying to boost their performance.

This is not a good practice, as it result in the over-working of one’s blood producing cells in the  bone marrow predisposing you to many health risks.

B. Increased Rate of Transfusion Transmissible Infections

Transfusion transmissible Infections (TTIs) are those diseases that a patient (blood recipient) gets from receiving blood units from an infected donor.

Certain commercial donors, even when they know they have these diseases still go for blood donation to get the money. And if by any chance, the infection gets undetected after screening, it means trouble for the person who will receive the blood.

4. Limitation from Unavailability of Donor Screening Units

There are lots of expensive tests that need to be carried out on blood donors before their blood can be used on a patient. Such tests include Viral screening and Syphilis. So affording to carry out these tests is an issue for blood many blood banks.

5. Poor Database Management for Previous Donors

One of the duties of blood banks is to keep records of blood type charts of various blood donors who use the facility. But most times, you observe that the records get too large to manage because they are basically written on paper. So even if regular donors visit such facilities, they will still need to go through the protocols of blood passing all the blood donation requirements. This is time-wasting for both the blood donor and the blood bank.

6. Lack of incentives given to non-paid donors: 

Usually, it is a routine that after blood donation, the non-paid donors are given some incentives to encourage them. In some places, it could be free meals, snacks, Customized T-shirts, hand bands, etc.  These are often seen as added benefits of blood donation. All these are not to be regarded as payments or rewards for blood donation, but are used in encouraging blood donors and could make them feel among.

But many blood donation centers in Nigeria no longer do this. This could be the reason why a lot of people are no more motivated to participate in blood donation.

7. The Myths Associated with Blood Donation

A lot of Nigerians have different kinds of false beliefs and misconceptions about blood donation. These myths have been holding a lot of well-meaning Nigerians down from engaging in voluntary blood donation. I have dedicated a full post titled blood donation myths and facts. You will discover the various myths associated with blood donation and their respective counterarguments. You can go ahead and read them after this one.

Nigeria is a very diverse society with people from various socio-cultural orientations and beliefs. Apart from the myths associated with blood donation, a lot of people who are willing to be voluntary blood donors are constantly discouraged to donate blood because of the state of things in the country.

Also, many blood donors in Nigeria are worried about the following;

  1. Fear that their blood may be sold: This is not usually the case for free-will donated blood. But one cannot also vouch that there are no fraudulent blood banks in the country.
  2. Poor Phlebotomy Technique: Phlebotomy is the process involved in the collection of blood. So many people fear that the procedure may not be done so well, and they may be at risk of getting infected.
  3. Fear that their blood may be disposed of without use: Due to the bad condition of many blood banks in Nigeria, there are fewer technologies and machines available that could help in the preservation of blood and its products so that they could last longer. So many people fear that their blood may be discarded once it is no longer good for use.
  4. Fear of knowing their Viral Screen Status: Also, many voluntary blood donors in Nigeria do not actually like knowing their HIV status or other STI status. This prevents them from visiting the blood banks.

Creative Ideas for solving some of the challenges of blood donation in Nigeria

Not much can be done by organizations and blood donation centers that are at the forefront of encouraging blood donation with regards to finance because it is mainly a function of the government and philanthropists. But a great difference could be made by doing adopting some approaches which will definitely make the process of blood donation more efficient in the various blood banks and blood donation centers. They are;

1. Making Blood Donation Booking Possible for Donors

The American Association of the Red Cross and Red Crescent have already started this movement a long time ago. Blood donation booking simply means that anyone can actually choose a date when they want to donate blood at the blood bank. This will help the blood bank to prepare ahead to meet the blood donors. This strategy will go a long way to solve the problem of availability for the blood bank as it will have enough time to prepare ahead for the donors.

So assuming a blood bank does not the capacity to screen donors on a particular day, the donation could be postponed to a better date when all the kits needed are complete. This will save the time of the donors and the blood bank staff as well. And will reduce the number of sensitized blood units due to improper storage.

2. Discouraging Commercial Blood Donation

To curtail the risks posed by commercial blood donors to recipients, the best solution will be to reduce the number of commercial donors by either placing a limit to it monthly or not patronizing them at all.

On the other hand, this energy could be channeled to the non-paid donors who are more trust-worthy. And ultimately will help make the process of blood donation seamless and less stressful.

3. Use of Digital Database in Charting Donors’ Blood Types

Medical records in many Nigerian hospitals have been taking a good dimension in recent times as Digital Medical records are gradually replacing the old file records made on paper.

Places like the University of Nigeria Teaching hospital now use digital databases for recording patient’s histories (The General Out-patient department, Radiology Unit mainly). This concept could also be used for blood type charts of blood donors so that when they come next for blood donation in a particular facility, the process will be way faster.

The idea is to open a digital folder for every new blood donor and record their genotype, blood group, and other screening results. The screening results are to be updated whenever they visit again. This could also help save cost and time spent on repeating blood tests on the same person every 3 months.

4. Encouraging Voluntary Blood Donors

Incentives must not necessarily be money or gift items, but something as little as making the donors feel among is just enough. Simple things like; birthday messages, season’s greetings, new month greetings, and gentle reminders that they are due for their next blood donation are a great place to start from.

Then more things like customized T-shirts, bangles, certificates, and awards could be added.

In a certain blood donation center, there is this culture of honoring blood donors based on their experience in blood donation. For instance, someone who is just donating for the first time is called a Newbie, on your Second donation, you receive the title of Intern, then Veteran, Chief, High Chief, and the rest for subsequent donations. And for all these titles, there are either certificates, awards, or items customized for you. These may lack no materialistic value, but will definitely make blood donors feel among and there will be an upsurge in the number of persons who would be interested in voluntary blood donation.

5. Creating More Blood Donation Movements

Nigeria is a country with very emotional citizens. For an idea to be widely accepted, it must be given an emotion that should definitely be positive. Creating more forums and occasions where voluntary blood donors are honored with or without gift items is a bonus point for increasing the number of Nigerian youths who will be interested in voluntary blood donation.

Such movements could easily be started by influencers on social channels like twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and the rest.

Motivating Voluntary Blood Donors in Nigeria

Recently, I no longer hear about the Red Cross blood donation drives and campaigns in Nigeria. Also, blood donation in Nigeria suffers a lot of stigma from some religious groups and cultures which overall discourages the effort of blood donation campaigns.

But that notwithstanding the obstacles, there must always be a way to circumvent these and increase people’s participation in voluntary blood donation in Nigeria. Most people are motivated to donate blood only when a relative or close friend is the one affected. But this practice should be taken as a routine even when we may not know the patient.

The best way to motivate voluntary blood donors in Nigeria is to take the sensitization programs very seriously. More people need to be educated so that the myths about blood donation can be demystified.

Final thoughts

Voluntary blood donation in Nigeria is very important for the growth treatment of patients and the growth of medicine. While we wait for scientists to figure out an alternative for hemoglobin and red cells, the best we can do as humans are to be a channel of blood supply to our fellow humans.

At least, blood is renewed every 120 days, so there is nothing much to loose by giving a pint once in a while.

What were your challenges and concerns the last time you donated or attempted to donate blood?

What do you think could be done better?

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Dr. Lee
Medical Student, Blogger, I.C.T Geek.

2 Comments

    • Am glad you found this post interesting Meliseonen.

      I would love to know which Part of the post captured your interest most.

      I hope to see you around.

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