Do you want to give back to your community but can’t seem to find the time? It can be difficult to find the extra hours in the day to drop off those blankets at the animal shelter or organize a supply drive for the local school. What if there were a way to donate something you already have on hand—and you only had to find about an hour every eight weeks to do so?
Yes, you heard right! Giving is free and takes the same amount of time as watching an episode of your favorite TV show. We’re talking about donating blood. Donors do good at minimal cost to themselves, and they help save three lives in the process!
While saving lives is reward enough, blood donors get additional benefits.
Potential benefits of donation
Giving blood increases antioxidant enzymes. (That’s a good thing!)
Blood donation elevates antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase, as it decreases oxidative stress.
- Antioxidants may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals, which are produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to things like tobacco smoke or radiation.
- Free radicals are thought to play a role in the development of heart disease and cancer, among other conditions.
Donating can help you identify unknown heath concerns.
All donors must undergo a brief physical exam before giving. They must also have a basic blood test before providing a full donation. Both of these practices can help donors catch health problems they didn’t know they had.
- For example, blood pressure issues (high or low) or low blood count can be discovered through these tests.
It makes you feel good!
First, the obvious: When you donate, you’re saving lives. That feels pretty darn good.
- Studies have shown that those who give back to their communities live longer and are often happier with less stressful lives—but this is only true if their main goal is giving back! So, focus on the good you’re doing, and this benefit may follow.
You might get some freebies.
Who doesn’t love free stuff? It may seem like a silly benefit but come on—we all love free things.
- Organizations like Vitalant (formerly Central Blood Bank) give out free T-shirts, scarves, water bottles, lunch bags, hats, and more!
- After a successful blood donation, you feast on free beverages and snacks to get your strength back.
Donor rewards programs
Vitalant also offers donors points for each successful donation. You can redeem these points for thank you items and/or gift cards.
You might get some perks from your employer.
Some employers (like UPMC, for example) offer incentives to employees who donate blood. You can even score some extra time off (PTO hours) when you give.
Potential risks of donation
There are some risks to consider when deciding if you can give. While most people give blood with few adverse effects, others experience discomfort during or after donating, dealing with these common side effects, for example:
These symptoms usually subside within three days of giving. Most often changes in your body that come from losing blood cause these side effects. Try resting and keeping your fluid intake up. Eat iron-rich foods like meat, fish, and iron-fortified juices or cereals. Foods rich in folic acid—think leafy greens—can also help. Replenishing these blood-building nutrients may help alleviate lingering side effects.
Giving blood offers many health and community benefits at relatively little risk to you. Blood bank staff take every precaution to help donors give blood safely.
Bayram N, Erdamar H, Gok S, Yunce M. One more health benefit of blood donation: reduces acute-phase reactants, oxidants and increases antioxidant capacity. J of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology. 2016 April 18; 27(6). https://doi.org/10.1515/jbcpp-2015-0111
Donate, Rewards Programs. Vitalant. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.vitalant.org/Donate/Rewards.aspx
Frequently Asked Questions. American Red Cross. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.redcrossblood.org/faq.html
Hamilton A. Volunteering to Help Others Could Lead to Better Health. American Psychological Association. September 6, 2011. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/09/volunteering-health
Nall R. Advantages and disadvantages of donating blood. Medical News Today. September 12, 2017. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319366.php
The Benefits of Antioxidant-Rich Foods (Plus, 8 Natural Antioxidants You Need to Try). UPMC HealthBeat. January 8, 2018. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://share.upmc.com/2018/01/antioxidant-food-benefits/
What to Do After You Donate. Carter BloodCare. November 5, 2014. Accessed December 17, 2019. http://www.carterbloodcare.org/what-to-do-after-you-donate/