DEBUNKING

bLOoD DONATION MYTHS

There are tons of myths about blood donation that prevent many from taking that next step to save lives. It’s time for us to clear the air and debunk some of these myths!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The blood donation process
Eligibility to donate blood
Blood donation safety
Planning your donation schedule
Others

The Blood Donation process

How does the blood donation process work?

Before making an appointment to donate, it is important to be aware of some of the common reasons that could lead to a deferral or unsuccessful donation, and of how donating blood could affect your ability to carry out some activities later.

When Not To Donate
In general, if you’re currently undergoing treatment for a major illness or surgery, or (for women) if you’re pregnant or experiencing heavy menstrual flow, you’re advised to delay your blood donation for the time being.

For donors who have recently travelled overseas, there are also certain restrictions depending on the location you travelled to.

Visit the Health Sciences Authority’s website to learn more about the different factors that could affect your next donation date.

How long does the blood donation process take?

Each blood donation usually takes 45-60 minutes and up to 90 minutes for an apheresis donation. Please call us at 6220 0183 to book an appointment for shorter waiting time.

How should I prepare for the blood donation? Should I fast or eat specific foods?

Please eat a light meal and have a good night's rest before donation. No fasting is needed before blood donation. Should you feel unwell on the day of donation, take a rest and consider postponing the donation until you feel better. Avoid drinking tea or coffee and consuming calcium-rich foods (milk, cheese, yogurt) with iron-rich meals or iron supplements. Tannins in tea, caffeine in coffee and calcium reduce iron absorption. Have your coffee or tea after your meals.

What happens after I donate blood?

Most people will feel okay after the donation. Some donors might experience slight giddiness. For all blood donors, the nurse will ask them to rest on the donation bench for 10 mins after their donation.

If you feel slightly giddy after the donation, continue to rest on the donation bench after the 10 mins or at the refreshment area. Only leave when you feel ok. It is not necessary to eat more after the blood donation to compensate. Blood volume can be replaced just by drinking plenty of fluids.

You should avoid strenuous exercise after donating. Your athletic performance might be slightly lower for the next 3 days.

Here are some tips on post-donation care you can read.

Eligibility to donate blood

I'm 16 years old. I want to donate blood. Do I have to submit the consent form? Can I choose not to?

For individuals aged 16 or 17 who wish to donate blood, they are required to submit a signed parental consent form. This is a necessary first step for anyone aged 16 or 17 before they are allowed to register for blood donation.

I'm a foreigner currently residing in Singapore. Can I donate blood?

For blood donations in Singapore, you are required to provide your residential address details (valid for 3 months from your intended donation date) for registration and a contact number by which we can contact you in case of an emergency or if clarification is needed.

The minimum weight requirement to donate blood is 45kg. Why is that so?

Blood makes up about 7% of our body weight. We collect 350ml from those who weigh 45-50kg and 450ml from anyone weighing above 50kg.

Collecting less than 300ml of blood is insufficient and taking more than that from someone weighing less than 45kg may cause them to feel giddy.

There is a minimum requirement for haemoglobin level, what does this mean and how do I test for it?

Haemoglobin (Hb) is a specialised protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues and returns carbon dioxide from tissues to the lungs. Iron is essential for the manufacture of haemoglobin.

Prior to each blood donation, you will be tested for your Hb level usually through a simple finger-prick test at the blood donation site. Donors must have a Hb level of at least 12.5g/dl for females and 13.0g/dl for males before they can donate blood. This is to ensure the safety of the donor as frequent blood donations without sufficient replacement of the iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.

I frequently get deferred as a blood donor due to low haemoglobin count. What can I do?

Iron deficiency can be prevented by eating a well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods. Iron from meat and seafood sources is better absorbed by the body. However, you can improve iron absorption from non-meat and non-seafood sources by consuming them together with foods and liquids rich in Vitamin C.

Foods that are rich in iron content can be found in the following (ranked from highest to lowest per standard serving within each category):

Vegetable
Kang kong
Spinach (bayam pasir)
Chinese kale (kai lan)

Meat and seafood
Pork kidney
Chicken liver or pork liver
Lean beef or lean mutton
Canned tomato sardines
Lean pork

Beans, nuts, seeds, soy products
Lentils
Green gram or red gram
Cashew nuts
Sunflower seeds or watermelon seeds
White soya beans
Pistachios
Soya beancurd, tofu

Fruits
Dried figs or dried longans
Dried black dates or dried red dates
Semi-dried prunes

Rice and alternatives
Bran flakes
Cornflakes
Wholemeal pasta

I'm vegetarian. What can I eat to increase my haemoglobin level?

Iron-rich foods, such as lentils, pumpkin seeds, beans, dates, longans, grains, nuts, and green, leafy vegetables can help to ensure you meet the requirements for blood donation. Having a diet rich in Vitamin C can also help as it increases the absorption of iron in your body.

Taking iron supplements a week before your scheduled donation can also make a difference.

At the same time, avoid drinking tea/coffee/caffeine-rich drinks 1 hour before and after food, as caffeine can reduce the absorption of iron by more than 80%.

I had fever, flu and cough a few days ago. Am I still eligible to donate blood?

For cold, sore throat, flu or any other symptoms (except for fever), please wait 1 week after you've fully recovered before donating blood. For fever symptoms, please wait at least 4 weeks after you've fully recovered before donating.

Can I consume alcohol before donating blood? What if I'm a smoker?

Having a few glasses of alcohol the day before your donation is fine. However, if you're experiencing a hangover, it is not advisable for you to donate blood as there may still be some alcohol in your system.

There are no restrictions on smokers to donate blood.

I have a tattoo. Am I allowed to donate blood?

If you have just gotten your tattoo, you should defer donations for at least 12 months (unless disposable needles were used) and you'll need to inform the attending doctor/nurse.

Is it a requirement to know my blood type before donation? Will the staff be able to instantly test for it?

You do not need to know your blood type beforehand, nor will our staff be able to test your blood type for you prior to your donation. However, following your donation, your blood will be tested for its type and you will be informed of your blood group on your next donation.

Can I donate blood after receiving a covid-19 vaccine?

The deferral period may vary depending on the type of vaccine received or if you developed symptoms after receiving the vaccine. More details can be found here.

Blood Donation Safety

What tests are done to ensure my blood is safe for patients?

To ensure all patients receive the safest possible blood, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) screens and processes all donated blood before it is transfused to patients.

Blood component processing
To optimise blood usage and to benefit more patients, every bag of donated blood is processed into different components:
  • Red Blood Cells: used to treat severe anaemia or during surgery, childbirth
  • Platelets: used for dengue fever, leukaemia and cancer patients
  • Fresh Frozen Plasma: used to help manage blood clots during bleeding or infection.
Infectious diseases testing
All donated blood is screened for infectious diseases, including HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis. Selected components or units may also be tested for malaria or bacterial contamination.

Blood group testing
This ensures that the donated blood is given to a patient with a compatible blood type.

Antibody screen
This is to ensure that there is no high level of abnormal antibodies in the donated blood that may be harmful to a patient following a transfusion.

Storage of blood products
All blood products must be stored under carefully monitored and controlled temperatures and conditions. This ensures that they are in an optimal state when transfused to patients.

Is it safe to donate blood?

Blood donation is a safe process. The average adult has 4 to 5 litres of blood. During a donation, only 350 to 450 ml of blood is drawn. About 8% to 12% of your blood volume (depending on your weight) will be taken during blood donation. The fluid (plasma) portion of your donated blood will be replaced in a few days.

Planning Your Donation Schedule

When can I donate blood?

Before making an appointment to donate, it is important to be aware of some of the common reasons that could lead to a deferral or unsuccessful donation, and of how donating blood could affect your ability to carry out some activities later.

When Not To Donate
In general, if you're currently undergoing treatment for a major illness or surgery, or (for women) if you're pregnant or experiencing heavy menstrual flow, you're advised to delay your blood donation for the time being.

For donors who have recently travelled overseas, there are also certain restrictions depending on the location you travelled to.

Visit the Health Sciences Authority's website to learn more about the different factors that could affect your next donation date.

How to plan my donation schedule so I can contribute regularly while taking care of my personal/health needs?

We encourage donors to plan their next donation by taking note of the following:

Post-donation activities

  • To prevent bruising and to promote healing at the needle site, you need to avoid lifting or carrying heavy items for at least 12 hours.
  • You will also need to avoid undertaking any strenuous or athletic activities for 24 hours to enable your body to adjust to the donation.
  • Continue to hydrate yourself throughout the day to help your body replenish the donated blood.

Travel

Donation intervals

  • For whole-blood donations, there is a waiting period of 12 weeks before you can make your next donation. For apheresis donations, the waiting period is 4 weeks.

Holiday periods/long weekends

  • Blood stocks tend to dip during long weekends and holiday periods. Consider scheduling your donation during holiday periods and long weekends. This would ensure that our blood-stock levels remain at healthy levels at a time when many regular donors may not be available.

Where can I donate blood?

You can donate at our Bloodbank@HSA, @Dhoby Ghaut, @Westgate Tower or @Woodlands. However, apheresis donation is only available at Bloodbank@HSA.

You can also choose to donate at any of our community blood-drives, which are held regularly in different locations across Singapore. To reduce waiting time, you may wish to make an appointment for your donation by calling us on 6220 0183 or making an online booking using your Singpass.

What is the interval between donations?

You should wait at least 12 weeks before making your next blood donation. For apheresis donations, the waiting period is 4 weeks between donations.

Others

What happens to my blood after donation?

Your blood is sent for screening and separated into three components - red blood cells, platelets, and fresh frozen plasma - before being placed in carefully monitored and controlled conditions to make sure it's in an optimal state when transfused. Red blood cells can be stored for up to 6 weeks, but most of the blood is usually transfused within 2 weeks.

I've made an appointment to donate blood. Can I bring a friend along?

Yes, you can bring your friend. However, they will have to join the walk-in queue whereas you will have priority since you have already booked your donation slot. As such, if there are many donors on the day, you may not be able to make your donations together. Alternatively, your friend may call Singapore Red Cross at 6220 0183 to make an appointment at least one day beforehand.

Can I specify whom I want to donate my blood to?

We do not collect directed donations. Blood is regularly supplied to hospitals all over Singapore based on their needs. If you are going for a surgery and would like to donate blood for your own use beforehand, please contact the Health Sciences Authority for more information.

My organisation wants to organise a blood-drive. Whom should I contact for more information?

To organise a blood-drive either on your organisation's premises or in the community, please contact the Singapore Red Cross at 6220 0183 or email donate.blood@redcross.sg for more information.

CURRENT BLOOD STOCKS LEVEL IN SINGAPORE

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