Blood banks are always asking for donations, citing low supply and high demand. Yet only 5% of eligible donors give blood. One of the most common reasons that people give for not donating blood is fear.

Those who are not educated about the blood donation process often fear that they will suffer harmful side effects, or that they could contract a horrible disease. But in reality, giving blood is actually very safe. Here are some reasons not to worry:

* Blood donors are carefully screened for health issues. They are asked for specific information about their medical history, given certain tests, and their vital signs are checked. If you have a problem that is likely to make giving blood dangerous for you, the blood bank won’t take your blood. So as long as you’re honest about your health, they won’t do anything that will put you at unnecessary risk.

* Infection should never be a concern. Today’s blood banks have strict requirements that they use sterile equipment that is disposed of after use.

* Giving blood isn’t painful. You’ll feel a slight pinch when they stick the needle in your arm, but other than that, the donation experience is pain free.

* Even if you’ve been turned away before, you might be able to give blood now. There are many reasons that someone might not be able to give blood, but most of those reasons are not permanent. There’s no reason to be afraid to try just because you were unable to donate in the past.

* Donating will not cause your body to be low on blood. Each donor gives one pint at a time, and the body can replenish that much within one day. It takes a few weeks for it to produce enough red blood cells to make up for those lost, but you shouldn’t suffer any ill effects from that.

* Giving blood rarely causes adverse reactions. Of the 2% of donors that do have reactions, the overwhelming majority of them experience fainting or dizziness. Bruising at the needle insertion site also occurs on occasion. More serious reactions are extremely rare due to the great care taken during the process in developed countries.

* You won’t be pushed out the door before you’re ready. Donation centers, including mobile ones, provide refreshments and a place for donors to rest after donating. This allows you to replenish your fluids and recoup before you leave. But don’t worry that you’ll be stuck there all day, either. Most people can leave within a few minutes of finishing up, as long as they abstain from strenuous activity for at least four hours.

Giving blood is quick, easy, and safe, and it has the potential to save a life. Your blood won’t be taken if doing so would pose a risk to your health, so you have nothing to lose. Why not give a pint today?

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