When Teens Give Blood
If your 16- or 17-year-old asked for permission to donate blood, what would you say?
In light of dwindling pools of eligible donors -- only about 38 percent of the adult population is able to give blood -- the American Red Cross is hoping more teens will donate. Many states, including Maryland and Virginia, allow 16-year-olds to donate with a parent's consent (in D.C., you can give at age 17 without parental consent); kids that age give about 8 percent of all the whole blood donated to the Red Cross.
I'd be proud if one of my kids wanted to give blood. It can be a great and character-building experience, as this recent National Public Radio story about teens giving blood attests.
But a study in the current Journal of the American Medical Association gives me at least momentary pause. According the the research, 16- and 17-year-olds are more likely than those over 20 or even 18- and 19-year-olds to have adverse reactions after giving blood, ranging from brief lightheadedness to full-out fainting.
The study is quick to point out that the vast majority of people, kids included, who give blood do just fine. And most of the adverse events teen donors experience are mild and fleeting.
But sometimes they're serious enough to warrant medical attention outside the blood bank. In the study of 145,678 kids ages 16 and 17 who donated whole blood to the Red Cross, 86 experienced "medically relevant" events, most commonly falling down and injuring themselves after losing consciousness. Their injuries included concussions, lacerations requiring stitches, dental injuries and a broken jaw.
And, the study notes, teens who have a bad time of it the first time they give blood often opt not to donate again. So a scary experience early on might end up contributing to the blood supply's further shrinkage.
The Red Cross offers some tips for helping your kid stay on his feet after giving blood, such as getting a good night's sleep, eating a nutritious meal before donating, and drinking a few extra glasses of water in the days prior to donation.
(While you make up your mind about your kid's giving blood, why not plan your next donation? Find an upcoming blood drive here.)
Have you -- or your kid -- ever had a bad experience with giving blood? And did that keep you from giving again?
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