TIPS FOR A GOOD DONATION
Get a good night's sleep - losing blood will be tiring enough without
sleep deprivation on top of it.
Eat a good meal at least 3 hours before donating
Drink extra water and fluids to replace the volume you will donate
- being well hydrated also makes it easier for them to FIND the vein
to do the needlestick, and to draw the blood.
Avoid caffeinated beverages
Eat iron-rich foods for 2 weeks prior in order to boost iron level
(beef, spinach, whole grains, eggs, etc)
Avoid fatty/greasy foods for about 24-48hrs before donation (fatty
materials negatively impact some tests)
Avoid smoking for at least 3 hour prior to donation.
If you are a platelet donor, your body must be free of asprin for
48hr prior to donation
No alcohol for 48 hours before donation
During registration you will be given general information about donating
You'll be asked to complete a form with demographic and basic health
You'll be asked to show an ID card, generally a picture ID - this
is for proof of age and to verify identity.
One of the staff will go over physical requirements with you - things
like age, weight, etc.
HEALTH HISTORY / MINI-PHYSICAL
Trained staff will ask you some health history questions during a
You'll have your temperature, iron level, blood pressure, clotting
ability, and pulse checked
If you have allergies to, or get a rash from, iodine or other topical
antiseptics, NOW is the time to say something!
You will be asked various questions about your state of health, prior/current
illnesses, travel history, and possible sexual history. All answers
are treated as confidential, and are required in order to determine
whether your donation will be safe to use.
Further testing will be done via labs to ensure safety of the blood
If you know which arm is easier to do the needlestick in, let them
DONATION - WHOLE BLOOD (about 10-20
1) You sit in a recliner or lie on a cot with your arm extended on
2) A blood pressure cuff or tourniquet is placed around the upper arm
to fill the veins with more blood and make them easier for the staff
to see and insert the needle into. (This is a good thing, otherwise
they play pokey pokey pokey with the needle, and that's never fun later....)
This also helps the blood bag fill more quickly due to the pressure
3) The skin on the inside of the elbow is cleaned with an antiseptic
swab. (Hopefully you'll have mentioned if you're allergic to things
4) A new, sterile needle is inserted into your arm. If you're squeamish
about needles (I admit it, I am...as weird as that may sound to anyone
reading this...) then don't watch.
5) Once the needle is in place, you'll be asked to make a fist, then
open and close your it a few times to get the blood flowing. Blood is
collected both into a bag and into either several tubes (for testing)
or one long tube with sections.
6) It usually takes about 10 minutes to fill the bag. If this is your
first time, you may feel faint, especially if you are very close to
the minimum weight limit. When complete, the needle is removed and a
small bandage is placed on the needle site and a dressing of some sort
is wrapped around your arm.
DONATION - APHERESIS (about 1-2 hours)
Apheresis, an increasingly common procedure, is the process of removing
a specific component of the blood, such as plasma, and returning the
remaining components to the donor. During apheresis, blood is drawn
from one arm and pumped through a machine that separates out a specific
component, such as platelets. The rest of the blood is then returned
through a vein in the other arm.
This process allows more of a single component to be collected, however
it takes longer than standard whole blood donation - typically one to
two hours. It's also extremely uncomfortable, even painful to some people,
so at least some donation centers do pay people for their time to do
At a donation center, the amount usually taken is about a pint (approximately
470ml), and can take about 10-20 minutes. It takes 24-48 hours to replace
the overall blood volume, but approximately 6 weeks to replace the actual
red cells. A unit is roughly 45% red cells, roughly 55% plasma, and
a very small proportion of platelets. An average size adult has 10-12
pints / 5 liters.
The approximate distribution of blood types in the United States blood
donor population is as follows. Distribution may be different for specific
racial and ethnic groups, in different parts of the country, and in
O Rh-positive --- 39 percent
O Rh-negative --- 9 percent
A Rh-positive --- 31 percent
A Rh-negative --- 6 percent
B Rh-positive --- 9 percent
B Rh-negative --- 2 percent
AB Rh-positive --- 3 percent
AB Rh-negative --- 1 percent
In an emergency, anyone can receive type O red blood cells, and type
AB individuals can receive red blood cells of any ABO type. Therefore,
people with type O blood are known as universal donors,
and those with type AB blood are known as universal recipients.
In addition, AB plasma donors can give to all blood types.
AFTERCARE / REFRESHMENTS
Avoid heavy lifting for the rest of the day - There is a risk that
strenuous activity may cause wound to reopen, bleed into your arm, and
give you a painful bruise.
1) You sit in an observation area, where you relax and have a light
snack (often something sugary for a quick energy boost.) Spend some
time here to allow your body time to adjust to the slight decrease in
2) After 10-15 minutes, as long as you do not exhibit signs of complications,
you can leave.
For the next couple days:
3) Drink extra fluids
4) Avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting for the next 5+ hours
5) If you feel light-headed, lie down with your feet up until the feeling
6) If bleeding or bruising occurs, apply a cold pack to the area periodically
during the first 24 hours.
7) If your arm is sore, a pain reliever is often recommended such as
Tylenol/acetaminophin. It's generally recommended to avoid asprin or
ibuprofin (advil, motrin, etc) due to the risk of extra bleeding.
8) Meals high in protein will help your body make blood faster.
Contact the donation center or your doctor
1) You continue to feel nauseated, lightheaded or dizzy after resting,
eating and drinking
2) Notice a raised bump (especially if it's sore and red), continued
bleeding or pain at the needle-stick site when you remove the banage.
(Average clotting time is 5-7 minutes - bleeding should not take longer
than this to stop, if it shows no sign of stopping after this point
is when you need to contact someone.)
3) Feel pain or tingling down your arm, and especially if it goes into
4) Become ill with signs and symptoms or a cold or flu, such as fever,
headache or sore throat within the next four days. (Bacterial infections
can be transmitted by your blood to a potential donor through transfusion,
so it's important to let the donation center know if you become ill
so that your blood won't be used.)
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