Busting myths about blood donation

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health cover, dispels the common myths around blood donation and encourages more people to partake in this vital act of kindness.

Every year on 14 June, World Blood Donor Day is celebrated globally to raise awareness of the importance of blood and blood product donations.

“Worldwide, the need for blood is constant. Donated blood is used for cancer patients, those undergoing surgical procedures, trauma victims, women during childbirth, patients with chronic illnesses, and more,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

The South African National Blood Service needs to maintain a blood stock level of five days for each blood group to ensure sustained blood availability for patients in need. Despite this significant need, only about 1% of South Africans are active blood donors.

One of the significant challenges facing blood donation in South Africa is overcoming the myths and fears surrounding the process. Did you know that certain blood types, like O negative, are always in high demand because they can be transfused to patients of any type, particularly in emergencies?

Your donation could be the difference between life and death for someone in need.

Myth 1: Blood donation is painful

Fact: Many people fear that donating blood is a painful experience. However, while you may feel a quick pinch when the needle is inserted, this minor discomfort lasts only a few seconds. After that, the donation process itself is relatively painless. The area where the needle is inserted may feel sore afterward, but this discomfort is mild and temporary.

Myth 2: It’s time-consuming to donate blood

Fact: The entire blood donation process, from registration to the post-donation snacks (yes, you get snacks!), typically takes about half an hour. The actual blood draw takes only about 8–10 minutes. Considering that a single session can save up to three lives, this is a small investment of time with a huge impact.

Myth 3: You can get HIV from donating blood

Fact: This is probably one of the biggest myths about blood donation. Donating blood is safe and healthy. All needles and finger-prick lancets are sterile and used once only. After use, each lancet and needle is placed in a special medical-waste container and incinerated. Trained staff is employed to collect all blood donations, and strict protocols are followed.

Myth 4: Vegetarians cannot donate blood

Fact: Both vegetarians and vegans can donate blood. The key is maintaining a well-balanced diet with plenty of iron-rich foods.

Myth 5: Only heterosexuals can donate blood

Fact: Anyone can donate blood, irrespective of their sexual orientation – so long as they’re healthy, lead a low-risk lifestyle, weigh at least 50kg and are between the ages of 16 and 75. More on this can be found by logging on to the SANBS website.

Myth 6: You can’t donate blood if you have tattoos or piercings

Fact: People with tattoos or piercings can donate blood, provided these have been done professionally and healed fully. Most blood services require a waiting period post any piercing or tattoo to ensure no infections have been contracted, typically about three months.

Myth 7: You shouldn’t donate blood if you’re taking medications

Fact: While certain medications can deter blood donation, many common medications do not prevent you from donating blood. The critical factor is the type of medication and the reason you are taking it. Always check with the blood donation centre about your specific medications and your eligibility to donate.

Myth 8: Blood donation affects physical and cognitive performance

Fact: After donating blood, you can return to normal activities within a few hours. It’s recommended to avoid strenuous activities just for the rest of the day following your donation. As for cognitive functions, there is no evidence suggesting that donating blood affects mental abilities. Hydration and a meal post-donation are sufficient for most people to feel fine.

Myth 9: Blood donation is only for the young and healthy

Fact: While donors need to be in good health, people with chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure can donate blood if they are well-managed and under control.

Myth 10: There’s no need to donate if you have a common blood type

Fact: Every donor falls into one of four blood groups: A, B, AB or O. Additionally, you can be classified as either Rh positive or Rh negative, creating a total of eight main blood groups. Common blood types are in higher demand because they are more prevalent in the population. For instance, type O blood, especially O negative, is always in high demand because it can be transfused to patients of any blood type, particularly in emergencies.


Blood donation is a simple yet profound way to contribute to public health. By debunking these myths, Affinity Health hopes more people will understand the importance, ease and impact of donating blood. Remember, each donation holds the potential to save lives.

This World Blood Donor Day, consider becoming a donor and sharing the gift of life. Your one act of kindness can make a monumental difference to those in need.

Image credit: Freepik

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