Learn about blood
Blood is the fluid that transports oxygen and nutrients around the body. An average adult has just under 5 litres of blood circulating around their body.
Blood is made up of the following four major components:
- Red blood cells: their main role is to transport oxygen
- White blood cells: the cells of the immune system which defend the body against infections
- Platelets: important for blood clotting and tissue repair
- Plasma: the liquid part of the blood which carries the blood cells and other substances around the body
Safe blood saves lives and improves health. Blood is vital to life and for many people blood donors are their lifeline. Currently only 1 in 30 people give blood, but 1in 3 people will need blood in their lifetime. Modern processing techniques mean that a single blood donation, when separated into its components, can help at least 3 different patients and contribute to making up to 22 different products (including potentially life-saving immunisations for chicken pox, hepatitis B and tetanus). There is a constant need for regular blood supply because blood can be stored for only a limited time before use. Regular blood donations by a sufficient number of healthy people is needed to ensure that safe blood will be available whenever and wherever it is needed. Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person its the gift of life. A decision to donate your blood can save a life, or even several if your blood is separated into its components – red cells, platelets and plasma, which can be used individually for patients with specific conditions.
Blood transfusion is needed for:
- women with complications of pregnancy, such as ectopic pregnancies and haemorrhage before, during or after childbirth;
- children with severe anaemia often resulting from malaria or malnutrition;
- people with severe trauma following accidents; and
- many surgical and cancer patients.
- Regular transfusions for people with conditions such as thalassaemia and sickle cell disease and is used to make products such as clotting factors for people with haemophilia.