University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Ronald Strauss, MD
Professor of Pathology/Pediatrics
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
Those who want to give a little of themselves to help others might
want to consider giving blood. It's safe and takes very little of
"All the needles, bags, and tubing used for donating blood are
sterile, disposable, and used only once. There's absolutely no risk
of contracting AIDS or hepatitis by donating blood," says Dr. Ronald
Strauss, professor of pathology at the University of Iowa College of
Medicine and a staff physician at UI Hospitals and Clinics.
Blood donors of all blood types are always needed. "Most patients
have type O and type A, the two most common. They are needed most
often. Even though you have a common blood type that is shared by
many blood donors, don't think that there is an ample supply and that
yours isn't needed. Unusual blood types are also greatly needed. The
number of people with unusual blood types such as AB is small, so
there aren't many donors," Strauss explains.
It takes about 30 minutes to give a unit of whole blood. Only five
to ten minutes of that time is used for actually inserting the needle
and drawing the blood. The rest of the time you'll spend doing the
When you arrive at the donation site, you will be asked to read
materials about high risk donor groups--those who should not donate
blood because they may transmit hepatitis or the AIDS virus. Then,
someone will sit down and go over the information with you to see if
you have any questions. "We make sure that people who are in a high
risk group, such as intravenous drug abusers, realize that they
should not give blood," Strauss says.
You will then be asked a series of questions concerning your
general health. If you have any medical problems you may be given a
brief physical examination, he adds. "Almost anyone who has a chronic
illness such as diabetes or epilepsy can give blood as long as the
condition is under control and the medications the person is taking
are ones that we can allow. Almost all medications are permitted," he
During the brief recovery period--about 10 minutes--after the
blood has been drawn, you will be under the close supervision of a
nurse or technician, who will offer you refreshments.
"Anyone over age 17 who is in good health may donate blood.
However, most blood banks have a policy that requires a medical
evaluation for donors over age 65," Strauss explains. You can donate
blood four times a year. "When you give blood, you lose a certain
number of red blood cells. The body's bone marrow needs time to
replenish those cells," Strauss says. You can donate special products
such as platelets or plasma more often because the red blood cells
are returned to the donor, he adds.
Strauss stresses the importance of public awareness about the
safety of giving blood and receiving blood transfusions. Before a
transfusion, the donated blood is tested for infectious diseases such
as AIDS and hepatitis. "People in the medical profession are very
aware of the risks involved and are making every effort to make it as
safe as possible," he adds.
If you have questions or would like to give blood, contact your
local blood bank or the American Red Cross.