Overall, 16- and 17-year-old donors were three times more likely to experience complications compared to donors aged 20 and above, first-time donors were almost three times as likely to experience complications compared to repeat donors, and females were almost twice as likely to experience donation-linked complications compared to males. There were some regional variations as well, the team said.
Injuries related to fainting (including concussion, stitches and broken jaws) were more than twice as frequent in 16- and 17-year-olds as in 18- and 19-year olds and more than 14.46 times as likely than in the over-20 group.
These incidents can influence the willingness of young donors to donate blood again, the researchers found. Only 52 percent of 16-year-olds who experienced a problem, no matter how minor, returned for a repeat donation within a year, versus 73 percent of those whose donation went smoothly.
"We want donors to have a good experience, and there are a number of ways to do that. Every step is important," Eder said. "We collect these safety data so we have a baseline and can monitor and further our effort to improve the donor's experience."
Steps already well-known to reduce donation-linked problems include drinking lots of water, getting a good night's sleep and eating a nutritious meal before hooking up to the IV, experts say.
For more on giving the gift of life, head to the American Red Cross.
SOURCES: Anne F. Eder, M.D., Ph.D., executive medical officer, biomedical services, American Red Cross National Headquarters, Washington, D.C.; Peter Richel, M.D., chief of pediatrics, Northern Westchester Hospital, Mt. Kisco, N.Y.; May 21, 2008, Journal of the American Medical Association