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Teens - Most Promising New Blood Donors Have Complications

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, May 21, 2008 11:05 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Blood Donations, HIV, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Mad Cow Disease

Teenagers suffer more complications when they give blood but their donations are crucial to keep up blood supplies.



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ blood donation bruise/ author: npleaz


As the country ages, blood donations from the young are especially critical, but an American Red Cross report finds that many teens experience complications from donations, making them less likely to donate in the future.  

Teenagers ages 16 to 19, give about 15 percent of the nation’s blood supply each year, according to the American Red Cross. 

The report compiled data from 1.8 million donations in 2006. 

It shows that blood donors who were 16- and 17-year-olds are more likely to bruise or faint when giving blood. 10.7 percent of teens in that age group suffered a complication. 

The risk dropped to 2.8 percent in people age 20 and over.  For those donating blood for the first time, they were three times as likely to suffer a complication. 

Researchers were unsure why teens were more likely to experience complications.  They cited other studies showing that they react to stress differently than adults. 

According to Dr. Anne Eder, a researcher with the American Red Cross, "What was surprising was how much young donors contribute to the blood supply. The other important finding was that 16- and 17-year-olds were more likely to return to give blood again, but even a minor reaction like dizziness or other symptoms will reduce the likelihood that they will donate again."

Most teenagers donate blood during high school blood drives when they are warned to get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, and make sure they have breakfast. 

But donating blood has restrictions.  Teenagers who recently had a tattoo are ineligible to donate. Then there is the fear of mad cow disease from those who have traveled abroad. They too are prohibited from donating.

States have varying mandates on the age at which people can donate and whether or not they need parental consent.  According to the study, 200,000 more units of blood could be collected if 16-year-olds across the nation were eligible to donate.

Repeat donations by those ages 25 to 39 are in a decline, dropping 40 percent between 1995 and 2006, according to the report and restrictions on who can donate blood means that only 38 percent of American adults are eligible to donate.  

So making the experience of teen blood donation a positive one is crucial.

Dr. Dan Waxman of the Indiana Blood Center takes less blood from first-time teen donors, cutting the typical 450-milileter by one to two percent. Then he has them recover on gym mats on the floor, just in case they feel dizzy.  Negative reaction rates have been reduced at least eight percent, he says.

Waxman says the goal is to create donors for life.

The American Red Cross study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association. #

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