This week is National Blood Week, a campaign to raise awareness about donation and encourage people to sign up to become donors. Donating blood is quick, easy, painless and potentially lifesaving. Good, eh? Despite this, recent figures show that a whopping 81 per cent of 18-24-year-olds have never donated blood and the NHS is reliant on 400 new donors every day to ensure stock levels are met. The service is crying out for new donors and, despite what you might think, you probably are eligible to donate. Yup, there's a bunch of common misconceptions about who can and can't donate, but most fit and well people aged between 17 and 66, weighing between 50kg and 160kg (7st 12 bs and 25th), are fine to do so. Let's have a look at some reasons people reckon you can't donate and explore the truth behind them. First off, according to a survey by NHS Blood and Transplant, 20 per cent of people thought to have a tattoo meant that they were unable to give blood, while 16 per cent thought the same about piercings. This isn't strictly true - as long as four months have elapsed between getting your ink or piercing and making a donation, you're sound. The same goes for treatments such as filler or Botox, which involve injections that break the skin. The same survey also found that three per cent of adults thought that being vegetarian or vegan excluded you from being a donor, but that's not the case. As long as you eat a healthy, balanced diet, which includes plenty of iron, there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't go and donate. Smokers can donate - as can people who drink alcohol, although it (hopefully) goes without saying that you need to be sober for your donation. And drinking immediately afterwards is a no-no, too. Please take that from someone who learned the hard way. It's not pleasant. If you're lucky enough to have been on an exotic holiday, you may need to wait four months before you can donate, but it all depends on whereabouts you've been.
Nadine Eaton, head of blood donor recruitment for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "We know myths put a lot of people off donating. We can reassure people - blood donation is quick, easy and safe, and you will feel amazing afterwards. The vast majority of people are eligible to donate."The misconceptions that put people off include the belief you can't donate if you have tattoos - when it's just a four-month deferral - and men, in particular, are more worried by the idea it will take too much time. We aim to have you in and out in under an hour but your blood should only be flowing for five to 10 minutes."What we really need are certain types of donors, especially at our 23 permanent donor centres. We need more men to donate, more people of black heritage, and more O negative donors.