This Tuesday is World Blood Donor Day – and experts say they are urgently needed. The German Red Cross (DRK) warns of a shortage of supplies and urges people to donate blood. “An emergency must be avoided under all circumstances,” says DRK President Gerda Hasselfeldt of the Tagesschau.
So now would be the right time to make an appointment to donate blood. But where can you go for that? And who is allowed to donate their blood anyway? Here you will find answers to the most important questions.
Blood can be donated in many university clinics, hospitals and at the DRK. There are also municipal and private donation centers. In some places there are even mobile blood donation services with changing local times.
The DRK offers blood donation appointments nationwide. Donors can enter their place of residence and a period of time on the association’s website and thus arrange an appointment near them.
The blood donation process can vary slightly depending on the provider. According to the association, anyone who has their blood drawn by the DRK should plan about an hour. The blood donation itself only takes about ten minutes, but before it is taken, it is determined that it is suitable for donation.
First, donors fill out a medical questionnaire. A doctor then measures your blood pressure, pulse and body temperature. Shortly before the blood is drawn, a drop of blood is taken from the donor with a small prick. This is then used to determine the hemoglobin value – i.e. the concentration of the red blood pigment – and the blood group.
After the investigation, the donation can still be excluded from use by an “anonymous self-exclusion”. For example, if someone comes to donate blood with family members or acquaintances and does not want to openly admit an infection, the risk can be confidentially pointed out. The blood is then taken, but the donation is not used afterwards.
About 500 milliliters of blood are then taken. Donors can stay in bed for a short time after the donation to get something to eat and drink.
There must be a minimum interval of 56 days between two whole blood donations. Women can donate blood four times a year, men six times.
No, donors do not need to know which of the four blood groups they belong to. The blood transfusion services test every donation.
Donors must be at least 18 years old, weigh at least 50 kilograms and be healthy. You can donate for the first time up to the age of 65. Anyone who has previously been a donor may donate blood up to exactly one day before their 73rd birthday.
After some procedures and infections or when taking certain medications, donors have to wait until they can donate blood again.
For a long time homosexual men were not allowed to donate blood, since 2021 only if they have not had sex with other men for four months or live in a permanent monogamous relationship. Transgender people with “certain risky behavior” are also excluded from donating blood for four months. This is regulated by the “Hemotherapy Guideline” of the German Medical Association.
The reason is an increased risk of HIV and other infections that are transmitted through blood. Although every donation is checked for pathogens, HIV pathogens can only be detected after a certain period of time and can therefore be overlooked.
The German Aidshilfe criticizes the blanket exclusion of gay men who are not in a stable relationship. The lesbian and gay association also writes in a press release: “It is wrong to fundamentally define sexual contacts between men as risky behavior. Same-sex sex between men is not risky per se, as the proposed directive still suggests. The decisive factor is how protected the sexual contacts are in individual cases.”
Both associations call for risk behavior to be determined individually and not to be made dependent on the sex of the sexual partner. This is also what the traffic light government has decided to do. The 2021 coalition agreement states: “We will abolish the blood donation ban for men who have sex with men and for trans people, if necessary also by law.”
“In Germany, 15,000 blood donations are needed every day to ensure medical care,” says the private blood donation service Haema AG. Statistically, every second German relies on a blood donation or medication made from blood at least once in their life. According to the DRK, the most blood is needed to treat cancer patients in percentage terms. But people with heart disease, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract or sports injuries are often dependent on blood donations.
Anyone who donates blood is doing something for their own health care. The services examine every blood donation and can thus identify any abnormalities. If there are any findings, the donors will be informed and may be asked to contact their family doctor.
Some private and municipal blood donation services even offer financial compensation for the donation.
No antibody tests are currently being carried out on the blood donations. After a corona infection, donors must be symptom-free for one to four weeks, depending on the severity of the course, before the blood can be drawn from them.
After a corona vaccination, no longer waiting time is necessary.