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Health Information For Parents
Humans can’t live without blood. Without blood, the body’s organs couldn’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive, we couldn’t keep warm or cool off, fight infections, or get rid of our own waste products. Without enough blood, we’d weaken and die.
Here are the basics about the life-sustaining fluid called blood.
Blood brings oxygen and nutrients to all the parts of the body so they can keep working. Blood carries carbon dioxide and other waste materials to the lungs, kidneys, and digestive system to be removed from the body. Blood also fights infections, and carries hormones around the body.
Blood is made up of blood cells and plasma. Plasma (PLAZ-muh) is a yellowish fluid that has nutrients, proteins, hormones, and waste products. The different types of blood cells have different jobs.
Red blood cells: Red blood cells (RBCs, also called erythrocytes; ih-RITH-ruh-sytes) are shaped like slightly indented, flattened disks. RBCs contain hemoglobin (HEE-muh-glow-bin), a protein that carries oxygen. Blood gets its bright red color when hemoglobin picks up oxygen in the lungs. As the blood travels through the body, the hemoglobin releases oxygen to the different body parts.
Each RBC lives for about 4 months. Each day, the body makes new RBCs to replace those that die or are lost from the body. RBCs are made in the inside part of bones called the bone marrow.
White blood cells: White blood cells (also called leukocytes; LOO-kuh-sytes) are a key part of the immune system. The immune system helps the body defend itself against infection. Different types of white blood cells (WBCs) fight germs, such as
. Some types of WBCs make antibodies, which are special proteins that recognize foreign materials and help the body get rid of them.
There are several types of WBCs, and their life spans vary from hours to years. New cells are constantly being formed — some in the bone marrow and some in other parts of the body such as the spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes.
Blood contains far fewer WBCs than red blood cells, although the body can increase WBC production to fight infection. The white blood cell count (the number of cells in a given amount of blood) in someone with an infection often is higher than usual because more WBCs are being made or are entering the bloodstream to battle the infection.
Platelets: Platelets (also called thrombocytes; THROM-buh-sytes) are tiny oval-shaped cells that help in the clotting process. When a blood vessel breaks, platelets gather in the area and help seal off the leak. Platelets work with proteins called clotting factors to control bleeding inside our bodies and on our skin.
Platelets survive only about 9 days in the bloodstream and are constantly being replaced by new platelets made by the bone marrow.
With each heartbeat, the heart pumps blood throughout our bodies, carrying oxygen to every cell. After delivering the oxygen, the blood returns to the heart. The heart then sends the blood to the lungs to pick up more oxygen. This cycle repeats over and over again.
The circulatory system is made up of blood vessels that carry blood away from and toward the heart.
Two types of blood vessels carry blood throughout our bodies:
As the heart beats, you can feel blood traveling through the body at pulse points — like the neck and the wrist — where large, blood-filled arteries run close to the surface of the skin.
Sometimes medicine can be given to help a person make more blood cells. And sometimes blood cells and some of the special proteins blood contains can be replaced by giving a person blood from someone else. This is called a blood transfusion (trans-FEW-zyun).
People can get transfusions the part of blood they need, such as platelets, RBCs, or a clotting factor. When someone donates blood, the whole blood can be separated into its different parts to be used in these ways.
Blood banks collect and store blood, which healthy people donate.
People who have anemia have fewer red blood cells than normal, which can make them feel tired because not enough oxygen is getting to their bodies’ cells.
Blood is made up of different parts, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
White blood cells are part of the germ-fighting immune system.
Red blood cells have the important job of carrying oxygen.
A blood culture is a test that looks for germs (such as bacteria or fungi) in the blood.
Leukemia refers to cancers of the white blood cells. With the proper treatment, the outlook for kids with leukemia is quite good.
People with hemophilia have blood that doesn’t clot the way it should. That means that they bruise and bleed easily.
This common blood test helps doctors gather information about a person’s blood cells and how they’re working. Find out why doctors do this test and what’s involved for teens.
Iron helps the body carry oxygen in the blood and plays a key role in brain and muscle function. Too little iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia.
There’s a 97% chance that someone you know will need a blood transfusion. Blood donors â especially donors with certain blood types â are always in demand. Find out what’s involved in this article for teens.
Most period problems are common and normal. But some might be a sign that there’s something else going on.
Find out about the mysterious, life-sustaining fluid called blood.
About 5 million people a year get blood transfusions in the United States. This article explains why people need them and who donates the blood used.
Hemophilia is a rare bleeding disorder that prevents the blood from clotting properly. With modern treatment, most kids who have it can lead full, healthy lives.
The heart and circulatory system (also called the cardiovascular system) make up the network that delivers blood to the body’s tissues.
Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that makes red blood cells change shape and cause health problems. Find out how to help your child.
Long-term exposure to lead can cause serious health problems, particularly in young kids, so it’s important to find out whether your child might be at risk for lead exposure.
Alpha thalassemia is a blood disorder in which the body has a problem producing alpha globin, a component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body.
Easy bruising and excessive bleeding can be signs of Von Willebrand disease, a genetic disorder that affects blood’s ability to clot.
When people have Von Willebrand disease, their blood doesn’t clot properly. Many teens with VWD have such mild symptoms that they never know they have it.
Anemia is common in teens because they undergo rapid growth spurts, when the body needs more nutrients like iron. Learn about anemia and how it’s treated.
The heart and circulatory system are our body’s lifeline, delivering blood to the body’s tissues. Brush up on your ticker with this body basics article.
Anemia happens when there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells in the body. It can be caused by many things, including dietary problems, medical treatments, and inherited conditions.
The complete blood count (CBC) is the most common blood test. It analyzes red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Visit our Cancer Center for teens to get information and advice on treating and coping with cancer.
From treatments and prevention to coping with the emotional aspects of cancer, the Cancer Center provides comprehensive information that parents need.
There is no cure for AIDS, which is why prevention is so important. Get the facts on HIV/AIDS, as well as how it affects the body and is treated, in this article.
Have you ever had a bruise that turned a bunch of different colors before it went away? Find out why in this article for kids.
Blood might look the same and do the same job, but tiny cell markers mean one person’s body can reject another person’s blood. Find out how blood types work in this article for teens.
What does it mean when a kid has anemia? Learn about anemia, why kids get it, and how it’s treated in our article for kids.
Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that makes red blood cells change shape and cause health problems. Find out more in this article for teens.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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