May 23, 2008

Injury Risks for Teen-Agers Donating Blood

Minors who are 16 or 17 years old can donate blood, and many high schools across America host blood drives. But as Tara Parker-Pope points out in the NY Times, 16 and 17 year olds suffer increased health risks from donating blood.

From the article:

Complications like passing out and bruising after donating blood occurred in 10.7 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds and 8.3 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds, compared to 2.8 percent of donors ages 20 or older. Injuries related to fainting were uncommon but higher among the younger teens. There were 86 such injuries, or 5.9 events per 10,000 blood collections, from 16- and 17-year-old donors. Injuries were nearly three times as common in this age group compared to older teens and 14 times more likely compared to donors ages 20 and older. Almost half of all injuries occurred in 16- and 17-year-old donors. Many injuries, like those involving concussions, cuts requiring stitches, dental injuries and a broken jaw, were severe enough to require outside medical care.

Of course the risk of injury to any teen donor is still very slight but, as Ms. Parker-Pope's article points out, a bad experience donating blood may make a teen donor less likely to donate as an adult. A good solution would be to take special care to encourage younger donors to be cautious observant of their own health in the immediate aftermath of a donation and to stay in the company of people who will notice if they begin to pass out.

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