Donating Blood Every Week

What would happen to someone who donates blood every week?

My friend goes down to the emergency room (in Egypt) once or twice a fortnight and donates blood, they don’t ask over there if you’ve come before or how many times you’ve done it or anything like that, you just walk in, see if anyone needs your blood type and donate. Some times people from the hospital will go to nearby mosques after prayer (because it’s a big gathering) and say someone’s just been in a crash, can we have some donors please.

How dangerous is this?

I’ve been told it can affect your iron levels but what if you have a high iron diet, and take iron/vitamin pills?

Barring any risk of infection, I want to know what the effects and risks are from donating blood this regularly.

That’s quite a significant ongoing loss. It would be easy to become iron deficient with such a practice.

Iron is not terribly well absorbed and many people, especially premenstrual women are “right on the brink” of becoming deficient. This could put them over the edge.

Becoming iron deficient will lead to anemia which, while it probably won’t kill you, does leave you more vulnerable to the effects of (acute unexpected) blood loss, can strain your heart, and, of course, make you feel rotten.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is a high prevalence of mild anemia in many people in Egypt (and elsewhere along the Mediterranean) due to underlying genetic abnormalities in hemoglobin (e.g. thalassemias), chronic infection, and, in some cases, inadequate nutrition. If this is the case for your friend, becoming iron deficient could lead to an even greater degree of anemia.

According to this cite, the amount of time needed to get red blood cells back up varies, with the best recovery times ~20 days. Presumably, having a regular drain in a shorter time frame leads to anemia.

IANAD, but I would expect someone who donates whole blood that frequently to be generally fatigued due to a reduction in red blood cells.

Remember also that they are giving up white blood cells and platelets, but I’m not sure whether that would lead to more infections or perhaps more serious infections, or perhaps clotting issues if they were cut.

I think your friend is taking a risk by doing this, even if he is getting paid for his blood.

Your body needs time to regenerate the cells that are lost during donation. If you are continually removing blood cells your body has to work that much harder to replenish them, which I can’t believe is a good thing.

Good thought, but it doesn’t happen - platelets and white cells, with an inherent turnover rate that’s faster than that of red cells, and not needing iron, can keep up with the demand. Their rate of production can be so fast that increases in their numbers (especially of white cells) of 300 or 400 percent can occur within a day or so.

Dunno why but my multi-quoter doesn’t seem to be working.

**bup, KarlGauss:**If he has a high iron diet/takes iron pills would that counter act the effects of giving blood that regularly?

dolphinboy: Apparently it’s against Islam to sell your blood, so he doesn’t sell it. It’s just a charitable thing.

By the way, by increasing his/her body’s ongoing demand for red cells by making all those blood “donations”, your friend may soon run out of folic acid (also called folate), i.e. he/she may use up all his/her folate. Without folic acid, people can’t produce many of any blood cells (red, white, or platelet). In other words, folate is an essential vitamin for the synthesis of blood cells. We have about 100 days of folate stores.

People with so-called hemolytic anemias (where their red cells are being rapidly destroyed on an on an ongoing basis, thereby increasing the need for their body to produce red cells), are often given folate supplements to prevent this.

Maybe. As I said, iron is not well absorbed by many people. As a minimum he should get checked for anemia.

ETA: This is all MY OPINION and not advice.

Although it doesn’t sound like the case here, there are blood donation methods that return the red blood cells and remove other components. I donate platelets and I could donate every week, up to 24 times a year if I wanted. Apheresis donation has the added benefit that you aren’t so woozy afterward, but it does take longer. It’s a good excuse to watch a movie.

I knew that… but I didn’t want to make any assumptions. :slight_smile:

I wish I could remember the exact term (maybe “ferritin”), but when I had a physical a couple of years ago, the only thing they found was that I had low iron “reserves”. I wasn’t aenmic, but one of the markers for iron was very low. They had me even go to an oncologist to make sure I wasn’t bleeding internally from some sort of cancer. Up to that point I was donating whole blood every 8 weeks or so - they suggested that I hold off for 6 months, and donate less frequently afterwards. Tests after 6 months were in a normal range.

I’m now donating platelets instead of whole blood.

It’s not just iron. If his iron levels are fine, you have much bigger fish to fry. Here’s the thing. If you have high iron levels beforehand, you won’t suffer from losing blood (the reason iron is the usual problem is that it takes the body longer to produce red blood cells than some other components of blood. Adequate preparation does away with this issue).

But the other thing in blood that your body can’t replace overnight, even if you’re eating all the right foods for the situation, is sugar, and * that’s* a problem. The right amount of sugar will not protect you from your body’s reaction to sugar loss, and when you lose blood, you lose sugar very fast.

I just donated blood again yesterday morning. I’m a regular donor, which in Canada means once every 56 days. We don’t get paid here, but I’m an athletic 20 year old in strapping good health and have a rare blood type, so I donate as soon as I’m eligible every time. I don’t have any health conditions, any markers for diabetes, anything else that might affect blood sugar.

My iron levels were about 10 points above the minimum, but I passed out in the chair due to sugar loss just as they were taking the needle out (the dizziness can sneak up on you really fast). I suddenly couldn’t see anything but a blur. My body temperature went through the roof, I poured out more sweat per second than I do during intense excercise, and I was instantly more nasueous than I have ever been in my life. It was the worst, ickiest physical feeling I’ve ever had in my life. Worse than the real flu by far.

I was calm, but the nurses panicked. Why? Well, there’s a risk of permanent damage to your guts and liver because your body diverts all the blood going there to the brain. If something really goes pair-shaped there’s a risk of brain damage. And at the very least, you will be dizzy for a long damn time.

They took excellent care of me, did everything they possibly could, and still, 36 hours later, I can’t stand up without getting dizzy. For all of yesterday, I couldn’t even sit up. I was dizzy just lying propped up on a pillow. I’m ordered to stay away from even moderate exercise for several days, away from strenuous exercise for a week, and a routine blood test my doctor ordered to check for potential physical causes of depression has to be moved to next month. So the answer is yes, very bad things can and will happen to your friend if he’s giving blood every week, even if he is lucky when it comes to iron absorption and has enough iron in his diet. Each time he gives without the proper recovery period, he’s increasing his risk of passing out and not being brought back fast enough to avoid long-term consequences.

Especially if, as you state in the OP, the nurses present don’t know that he’s been giving blood more often than is technically allowed. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

ETA: very little of the iron in iron supplements is absorbed by the body even in the best of circumstances. Compared to dietary sources, they’re practically useless.

The Red Cross here lets you donate every 56 days. I did it every two months, regular as clockwork, for a long time, and even so my doctor once told me I was borderline anemic, prescribed iron pills, and suggested I give every three months instead.

I’m wondering if the blood he is donating is any good.

Imago, what you are describing is (most likely a vasovagal reaction. I am concerned that you are still feeling sick so long after your donation. Have you called your blood center to let them know?

I have taken care of hundreds of reactions like this over the years, but a prolonged recovery time may call for IV fluid replacement.

Regarding the OP, some people with blood disorders like hemochromatosis have to do therapeutic donations at much more frequent intervals than normal. We can’t use that blood in the US because of FDA regulations, but I’m sure other countries are different.

One other consideration is he will look like a junkie. As a rather poor young adult back in West Texas, I used to sell plasma twice a week. It paid me enough for beer money. I finally backed off when people who did not know me started assuming I was a junkie from all the scar tissue. Seriously.

He’s probably donating platelets or other blood components. I donate PLTs every week.

I just checked my arm (they always go for the same vein) and I don’t look like a junkie. Well, I don’t think I do. I don’t know any junkies.

If he wants to donate blood frequently he should become an apheresis donor. The blood is taken out of one arm, the platelets are removed and it is re-injected into the other arm. I was an apherisis donor. At the end of the session you actually feel better, unlike giving whole blood where you can feel groggy. You can donate every week instead of every month or two. Each apherisis donation is equivalent to about 10 whole blood donations. It takes longer but it is worth it.

If he wants to donate frequently he shouldn’t be donating whole blood for the sake of his own health.

Because I was an apherisis donor I was getting frequent calls from the blood bank. My blood was needed for preemies and transplant patients. I didn’t mind showing up and was on a first name basis with the people at the blood bank.

I have. :slight_smile:

I am doing noticeably better this morning. Still not perfect, but noticeably better.

OP, I still say you should ask your friend what he is donating, just to be sure.

Yes, this happened to me too. I have very desirable blood (so they tell me) and was donating as often as possible for some 20 years, until I became anemic and got sent to a hematologist oncologist, which was very scary, and he told me I could donate no more than twice a year. I wish I could do it four times.