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Teen Health

Teen Blood Donors Face More Complications

Fainting, Bruising Among Risks; Researchers Say Negative Experiences May Deter Future Donations
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 20, 2008 -- Teens who donate blood may be more likely to develop complications such as fainting and bruising, according to a new study.

The results show 16- and 17-year-old blood donors were more than three times as likely to suffer from donation-related complications compared with donors aged 20 or over.

Researchers say the increasing demand for blood and limited supply of eligible donors have led blood centers to recruit more blood donors by advocating states to accept blood donated by 16- and 17-year-old high school students. For example, between 1996 and 2005, the American Red Cross reports blood donors in this age group accounted for 14.5% of annual donations while donations from older adults declined.

Most states allow 17-year-olds to donate without parental consent, and 22 states and U.S. territories allow 16-year-olds to donate with parental consent.

But researcher Anne F. Eder, MD, PhD, of the American Red Cross and colleagues say these findings suggest that "the increasing dependence on recruiting and retaining young blood donors requires a committed approach to donor safety, especially at high school blood drives."

(How do you feel about your teen donating blood? Talk with other parents on WebMD's Parenting: Preteens and Teenagers message board.)

Young Blood Donor Risks

In the study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers compared data on blood donation-related complications from nine American Red Cross regions in the U.S. that routinely collect blood from teens, primarily through high school blood drives in 2006. The overall complication rate was 3.8% of all collections.

When comparing rates of complications across age groups, the results showed that 16- and 17-year-old blood donors had much higher rates of complications, such as lightheadedness without loss of consciousness, fainting with loss of consciousness, bruising, and other problems, after donation.

Researchers found complications occurred after 10.7% of donations by 16- and 17-year-old blood donors, compared with 8.3% among 18- and 19-year-old blood donors and 2.8% among blood donors aged 20 and older.

Younger blood donors were also more likely to experience loss of consciousness and other major complications than older donors. Although injuries related to fainting were uncommon (5.9 events per 10,000 blood donations), they were 2.5 times more likely among 16- and 17-year-old blood donors compared to 18- and 19-year-old donors and 14 times more likely than in donors 20 years and over.

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