Here’s the No. 1 reason people fear donating blood. (Hint: It’s not what you think.)
An Ohio University study focused on what fears keep people from donating blood. Cincinnati Enquirer
A recent study by Ohio University psychologists has discovered the key reason that people are fearful about donating blood.
It’s not the needles, the pain or even the sight of blood.
It’s a fear of fainting – even though fainting rarely happens at blood donation.
Psychologists Christopher France and Janis France asked 1,008 men and women what they feared about giving blood. More than 27 percent of respondents said they feared fainting before the donation. Nearly 12 percent of respondents said they feared fainting, dizziness or light-headedness during or after the donation.
The reality, the study published in the medical journal Transfusion said, is that less than 4 percent of people faint before a donation, and less than 1 percent faint during or after a donation. Better public education could dispel fears and ease the often difficult task of blood-donor recruitment, the study said.
“The general public has inflated expectations of the risk for faint and pre-faint reactions to blood donation, suggesting that efforts to educate prospective donors with accurate information may help reduce this relatively common concern,” the authors write.
At Hoxworth Blood Center, which collects blood throughout the Cincinnati region, staff members said they do see donors faint. Phlebotomists Lori Gillis and Calee Downs, who staff blood drives, say the most susceptible are teenagers and young adults, at high schools and colleges, who are donating for the first time – often on an empty stomach.
The effect gets enhanced, Gillis and Downs said, when one classmate fainting at a blood drive triggers a chain reaction of others fainting.
Older adults fear fainting, Gillis said, because often the muscles controlling the bladder relax and release the contents.
The human body circulates between six and 12 pints of blood, depending on body size. The standard one-pint donation removes a significant volume, which is why a donation ends with a trip to a table for rest and encouragement to partake of free snacks and drinks to energize the body.
Gillis and Downs said donors can best prepare for a donation by:
- Eating iron-rich foods such as lean meat and dark-green vegetables.
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Getting a good sleep the night before.
Here's a bonus benefit to a blood donation: In the days after, your body has to work a little harder – and can burn up to 600 more calories to recover.
Follow Anne Saker on Twitter: @apsaker