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Blood donors can now start at 16 years old

LifeSouth Community Blood Centers will allow 16-year-olds to donate blood if they have signed consent from their parents beginning this month.

“This is an opportunity to attract new blood donors and hopefully make them donors for life,” said Ed Downey, LifeSouth’s director of district operations.

LifeSouth, following state law in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, has permitted 17-year-olds to donate without parental consent. It was about six years ago that other blood centers in the U.S. began permitting 16-year-olds to donate with parental approval.

Drives at high schools, for example, will now have hydration stations before students donate. One of the lessons learned was that getting fluids into donors prior to donating makes the process easier with fewer complications. So students will now receive a 16-ounce beverage before they give. There will also be R&R stations after donation to allow adequate time for recovery. LifeSouth also put together a new pamphlet for high school donors and their parents that fully explains the donation process from start to finish.

In addition to meeting the age requirements, donors must be in good health and weigh a minimum of 110 pounds. A photo ID is also required. LifeSouth operates community-based blood centers in Florida, Georgia and Alabama providing blood and blood components to more than 125 medical facilities.

It requires more than 800 volunteer donors daily to meet those needs. Young donors play a major role. LifeSouth’s donor demographics show the 20 to 24 age bracket is its largest group of active donors, while 17 to 19-year-olds are second. Combined they account for 27 percent of those who’ve donated blood in the past two years.

“This is a group that is healthy, they have the time, and it’s a way they can make a difference,” said Galen Unold, LifeSouth’s director of donor recruitment and retention. “It’s truly an altruistic act.”