Blood is a universal life-giving fluid that we all share. Our bodies produce and maintain blood to remain functional and alive.
But in certain instances, the blood of other people may be required to keep us alive; and these instances include surgery and medical convalescence. In such situations, how to preserve blood at home becomes critical knowledge.
Preserving blood at blood banks became popular during the First World War when soldiers on the battlefield collected blood that was preserved with sodium citrate and transfused it safely to patients. Since then, the medical field has invented advanced methods for storing blood at home and in conventional blood banks.
Why Store Blood at Home?
It can be important to have a pseudo-blood bank at home in the event of an emergency. Asides from the medical reasons for storing blood at home, people store blood at home for other reasons too – especially for those whose religious beliefs involve using their own blood for spiritual rituals.
Blood is only produced in the body and cannot be manufactured, so it is an essential life-giving fluid that must be treasured at all times. So let’s explore the best ways on how to preserve blood at home.
How to preserve blood at home
There are important steps to follow to collect and preserve blood. These involve the processes for collection and preservation of the blood sample.
Step 1: Collect blood by skin puncture
This can be done using a simple skin puncture. This method is commonly used for infants and small children where the amount of blood required is small. Blood obtained by skin puncture is also called capillary blood. Its composition is slightly different from the venous blood. In adults, it is obtained either from the side of the ring finger or the middle finger. In some cases the earlobe can also be used – but this is rare.
In infants, the preferred location is the heel. We can obtain the blood sample from the plantar surface (this is the bottom of the foot in contact with the ground) or the lateral surface, both of which are preferable. Sometimes, we can also collect the blood sample from the great toe. Below is how to collect capillary blood:
- First, the puncture site is cleansed with 70% ethanol
- After drying, a puncture – sufficiently deep to allow free flow of blood, is made with a sterile, dry, disposable lancet
- The first drop of blood is wiped away with sterile, dry cotton since it contains tissue fluid
- The next few drops of blood are collected. Do not squeeze the finger, as doing so can dilute the blood with tissue fluid
- After collection, a piece of sterile cotton is pressed over the puncture site until the bleeding stops
Please note that blood should not be collected from cold, cyanosed skin since false values of hemoglobin and white/red cell counts will be obtained.
Venous blood collection
Due to the ease of access, blood is best obtained from the veins of the antecubital fossa. A rubber tourniquet is applied to the upper arm. It should not be too tight and should not remain in place for more than two minutes. The patient is asked to make a fist so that the veins become more conspicuous and palpable.
The following steps are observed to collect the blood through the vein:
- First, the venipuncture site is cleansed with ethanol and allowed to dry
- Sterile, disposable needle and syringes should be used for venipuncture
- Needle size should be 19-21 gauge in adults and 23-gauge in children
- Venipuncture is carried out with the bevel of the needle up and along the direction of the vein. Blood is withdrawn slowly.
- Pulling the plunger quickly can cause hemolysis and collapse of the vein
- The tourniquet should be released as soon as the blood begins to flow into the syringe
- When the required amount of blood is withdrawn, the patient is asked to open their fist. The needle is withdrawn from the vein
- Sterile cotton gauze is pressed over the puncture site. The patient is asked to press the gauze over the site till bleeding stops
- The needle is detached from the syringe and the required amount of blood is carefully delivered into the tube containing the appropriate anticoagulant. If the blood is forced through the needle without detaching it, hemolysis can occur.
- Blood is mixed with the anticoagulant in the container thoroughly by gently inverting the container several times
Please note that the container should not be shaken vigorously as it can cause frothing and hemolysis.
Step 2: Preserve the Collected Blood
Some of the techniques for storing blood at home are examined below.
An important consideration in preserving and transporting blood is temperature control to preserve the integrity of biological material. For instance, blood and thawed plasma must be stored at 1 degree to 6 degrees Celsius. Therefore, general household-use refrigerators and freezers are not suitable for the storage of blood, which is sensitive to temperature variation.
To store blood at home, you must use medical-grade refrigerators and freezers designed to store temperature-sensitive material like blood. This is because of the following reasons:
- The insulation of medical-grade refrigerators and freezers is capable of handling temperature fluctuations better in the event of intermittent power failures
- The cooling technology of these refrigerators is of superior quality
- There are temperature monitoring devices built into these refrigerators to set limits to temperature changes
Use of blood bags (anticoagulants)
Anticoagulants are chemical substances that prevent the clotting of blood. In the laboratory, EDTA and Tri-sodium citrate are used as anticoagulants. These substances only provide 4 hours to one-day preservation of blood components in a normal state.
However, for longer preservation of blood at home, you will need the anticoagulant CPDA-1 (citrate phosphate dextrose adenine) used in blood bags. This anticoagulant type ensures the viability of blood cells in 450ml blood for up to 28-35 days when the blood is stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius.
Before use, the blood bags should be stored at temperatures below 28 degrees Celsius and out of direct sunlight. These bags have a shelf life of two or three years when supplied in a foil envelope (for example, the Baxter Fenwal blood packs). The label on the blood bag will show the expiry date.
More than 100 million pints of blood are donated each year around the world to help saves lives. So, it is very necessary to be knowledgeable on how to store blood at home to help save the lives of people who really need them. There you have learned how to preserve blood at home.