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Why do we donate blood?

Woman holding a bag of just donated blood.
Melody Bodette
Vermont Public
Jane Lindholm donated blood at the American Red Cross in Burlington, Vermont.

One of the things that makes blood so special is we can share it with other people! Scientists and doctors have figured out safe ways to take the blood from one person and put it into the body of a different person who needs it. That’s called a transfusion. Why would someone need more blood? Doctors use blood transfusions to help people who have been in accidents and to treat people with certain kinds of cancer, sickle cell disease and other conditions. But if you’ve never heard about this before, it can sound kind of strange and alarming to think about giving away something that is so necessary to your life! In our second blood-related episode we’ll tag along with Jane as she donates some of her own blood.

Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript

  • Scientists have not figured out a way to make blood and plasma in a lab. So the main way to help someone who needs blood is to get it from another person. 
  • In the United States, an organization called The American Red Cross handles most blood donations. It tests donated blood to make sure it’s safe and then distributes (gives) the blood to hospitals, where it can be used to treat people. 
  • When a person gives blood, about a pint is taken out. (The average adult has about 10 pints of blood in their body.). 
  • Bodies can replace the lost blood cells within four to six weeks. Plasma can be replaced in 24 hours.
  • In most states you can donate blood at age 17, but some states allow 16-year-olds to donate with permission from their parents or guardians.
  • Only 5 percent of the people in the US who are able to donate blood actually do.
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