Health Team

Study finds potential problems for teen blood donors

More teenagers are stepping up to donate blood. However, new research reveals they're more susceptible to problems after they donate.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — More teenagers are stepping up to donate blood. North Carolina requires that you be at least 17 years of age, but 22 other states allow donors as young as 16. New research, however, reveals potential problems for young donors.

“The blood supply depends on the commitment of our volunteer donors,” said Dr. Anne Eder, with the American Red Cross.

Teens are enthusiastic donors, but they are also more likely than adults to experience adverse reactions afterward.

“In 16- and 17-year-olds, 11 percent will experience a reaction compared to 8 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds and about 3 percent of donors older than 20 years,” Eder said.

Red Cross researchers analyzed 145,000 teenage donations from nine of their regional blood centers in 2006. They found the majority of adverse reactions in 16- and 17-year-olds are mild. They include light-headedness and dizziness. However, a small percent fainted or lost consciousness. A handful fell and were hurt.

“We believe this study indicates a need for awareness and preparedness, especially on high school blood drives,” Eder said.

Injuries to young donors typically occur in the refreshment area of a blood drive after donation or in a restroom. In response, researchers recommend training staff to recognize oncoming reactions.

Researchers said drinking water and making sure you eat prior to donating blood can be helpful. First-time donors and female donors are also more likely than others to experience adverse reactions.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.



Allen Mask, M.D., Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
Minnie Bridgers, Web Editor

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