Category: Health and Fitness
By: Nikola Majcenović
Blood (plasma) donation side effects - what can really go wrong?
Donating blood is a noble thing to do. Every healthy individual is encouraged to give blood as often as possible. Hospitals are almost always lacking on blood reserves that have to be replenished regularly. Nevertheless, is it safe to donate blood or plasma regularly? This article will address the possible side effects people might experience after donating.
It is estimated that about 5% of population donate blood regularly. Furthermore, hospitals would require that figure to be around 10% to eliminate all blood shortages. Approx. one third of the population are eligible to be donors on the basis of good health.
Benefits of donating blood are constantly touted to the public. Apart from doing a public service, there is sometimes a financial compensation involved, and often donors get a free day (or two) off work. While recovering from donation, donors are usually given free lunch and/or some small gifts of gratitude.
Most articles describing side effects of donating mention only short-term effects. These might include dizziness and fainting (as a result of decreased blood pressure), vomiting, and overall feeling of fatigue. All of these are easily controlled by not leaving the donation chair immediately and hydrating properly for the rest of the day (and the day after).
Let's take a look at blood/plasma donation in more detail. The amount of blood usually taken from donors is about 450 milliliters (1 pint in USA). This translates in about 10% of the total blood in human body. Since all of our defenses against illness' is located in blood, it follows that by donating blood we're effectively lowering our immune system strength by 10%.
Blood is mainly comprised of red blood cells, white blood cells, antibodies and liquid. Human body requires some time to replenish the blood lost by donating. Plasma (fluid) is restored the fastest - in about 24-48 hours, returning the blood pressure in the normal range. It takes up to eight weeks (56 days) to replace red blood cells. During that time human body is more prone to diseases and infections.
The donation process itself can leave you with a sore and bruised arm if the technician is not careful while putting and removing the needle.
According to this article on athletic performance after donating, athletes who donate blood experience up to 10% drop in performance initially. A higher incidence of illness is also reported.
A number of people who donate plasma regularly have been complaining about catching fever more regularly, although they were in perfect health before they started donating. You can read their comments here: donating plasma affects immune system.
There's also one hidden danger in blood donating. Human body is a great machine, but it isn't perfect. Every now and then a mutation occurs, and it's up to our immune system to suppress it. After blood donation our body has to replenish blood supply, and the process itself could increase the likelihood of malignancy in blood-forming tissues, according to Reuters.com.
As for myself, I've also had negative experience after donating. A few months ago I had donated blood for the first time. I was at perfect health for about a year and a few months up until then. A few days after donating I was struck with a fever and a high temperature. Temperature returned to normal after two days, but my nose hadn't stop running for about a week and a half. I think that was the slowest recovery from a fever in my whole life. I cannot think of any other reason why I would become ill apart from donating blood. As I said, I was healthy for a good while before donating and I haven't done anything out of the ordinary before donation. For information, I maintain a healthy diet and workout regularly. I've even managed to cure my arrhythmia with proper diet, as you can read in this article: How I cured my arrhythmia. Another side-effect of donating was a bruised arm. I am still not sure if this was caused by improper removal of the needle or me working out the day after donating (or both).
In conclusion, donating blood or plasma is good for humanity and the practice shouldn't be stopped. On the other hand, people should be more informed about possible side effects and how to minimize health risks after donation. As for me personally, I'll stay away from donating for about six months or so and then try again. This will give me a better perspective on how donating affects my health.
However, as for bruising, I did have one time where they put the needle into the vein, and thru the vein so when the blood went back in, it went around the vein and basically filled up my arm with blood. Had a HUMUNGOUS bruise about 4 x 6 inches that was bright purple and swollen for weeks while the blood re-absorbed into my body. But that's only happened once.