Every year on June 14, the World Health Organization (WHO) and countries worldwide celebrate World Blood Donor Day (WBDD). Focusing on the contribution and impact an individual giver can make, the WBDD theme for this year is “Safe blood saves lives” alongside the tagline “Give blood and make the world a healthier place,” – with the emphasis on building a healthier community.
Through the campaign, we call on more people all over the world to become life-savers by volunteering to donate blood regularly so that communities worldwide have sufficient access to safe and quality-assured blood and blood products during times of need.
Unfortunately, the Singapore national’s blood stocks are low at the moment, and we strongly urge people who are healthy and eligible to visit the blood banks or community blood donation camps to donate blood.
Understanding Blood Type
There are very specific ways in which blood types must be matched for a safe blood transfusion. Blood types are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens – substances that can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body. Since some antigens can trigger a patient’s immune system to attack the transfused blood, safe blood transfusions depend on careful blood typing and cross-matching.
With around 40 blood group categories, the International Society of Blood Transfusion recognises the Rhesus (RhD) and ABO blood group classifications as the most common and important ones.
In the ABO category, the main groups are A, B, AB, and O that are determined by the absence or presence of antigen A or antigen B on the surface of red blood cells.
For example; people with blood group A have antigen A on their red blood cells while patients with blood group B have antigen B on their red blood cells.
Similarly, the blood group is determined as AB when both the antigens A and B are present on red blood cells. People who are blood group O do not have antigen A or B on the surface of their red blood cells.
The blood group is considered positive or negative based on the presence or absence of the RhD antigen respectively.
A patient can receive blood that has the same ABO antigens as theirs, or O type blood. Patients who are RhD antigen positive can receive RhD positive or RhD negative blood, while RhD negative patients should preferably receive RhD negative blood. However as RhD negative blood is less common, it is usually reserved for women of child bearing age who are RhD negative as they have higher risk of complications if there is RhD incompatibility.
During an emergency, if the blood type is unknown, doctors will transfuse type O RhD negative blood – also known as the universal blood type.
Why Should You Donate Blood?
Blood transfusions are vital in times of emergencies and for patients who are undergoing major surgeries to replenish blood loss.
Patients with blood disorders such as leukaemia or aplastic anaemia may need frequent blood transfusions in order to support the bone marrow functions. Additionally, those undergoing stem cell transplantation may need up to 2 to 3 units of blood a week during critical phases of their treatment.
The HSA (Health Sciences Authority), which manages the blood banks in Singapore, says that it needs to collect around 400 units of blood a day to maintain an adequate blood inventory of 6 days to support bleeding emergencies and urgent transfusion needs.
The Blood Donation Process
Before proceeding with the blood donation, your haemoglobin level will be measured by a finger prick test to ensure that you can give blood. A medical screener will go through your health assessment questionnaire with you and measure your weight, pulse, blood pressure and temperature to confirm you are fit for donation.
Your arm is cleaned and a painkiller cream is applied to ensure minimal pain when donating. The actual withdrawal of blood takes about 5 to 10 minutes and 350-450 ml of blood is collected.
Eligibility for Blood Donation
There are some basic requirements you need to fulfil to become a blood donor.
- You should be between 16 to 60 years of age and weigh at least 45 kg.
- Teenagers between the age of 16 and 17 years need to provide a signed consent form from their parents.
- In addition, you should be in good health and should not have experienced any signs of infection such as a runny nose, cough, sore throat, or diarrhoea for at least seven days prior to blood donation. You should also not have had a fever in the past four weeks.
- You should not have taken medication, herbal supplements or traditional herbal remedies for at least 3 days. If you have taken antibiotics, you’ll need to wait at least 1 week before donating.
- You will need to have a haemoglobin level of at least 13.0 gm/dL in men and 12.5 gm/dL in women.
Where Can You Donate Blood?
Blood donation is an essential service, and the need for blood products never stops. You can visit any of the four blood banks or a community blood donation camp near you for blood donation.
You can donate at:
- Bloodbank@HSA – Health Sciences Authority, opposite Outram Park MRT
- Bloodbank@Dhoby Ghaut – Dhoby Ghaut MRT, Dhoby Xchange Basement 1
- Bloodbank@Westgate Tower Westgate Tower Level 10 Jurong East MRT, Exit D (walk through Westgate Mall)
- Bloodbank@Woodlands Woodlands MRT, Woodlands Civic Centre, Level 5
For the full list of locations, please visit the Red Cross website.