The decision to donate blood is a potentially lifesaving one, but it’s also a very personal choice that should be made only after careful consideration. We can’t be expected to make such an important decision unless we have all the facts. The Blood Donor Safety team understands that and, as part of our effort to educate and assist donors with the donation process, we offer these tips to help prepare you before, during, and after you donate blood.
Preparing to Donate
The preparation process begins well before the donation, but it’s fairly straightforward and entirely noninvasive. Increase the amount of iron in your food by adding more beans, raisins, fish and poultry, leafy greens, and other iron rich sources to your diet. In addition, prepare for your blood donation by following these tips:
- Prior to donating blood, eat a healthy meal, avoiding junk food and foods high in fat. The extra fat could impact the prescreening blood tests, because the fat prevents the blood from being tested for infectious diseases. If the blood can’t be screened, it can’t be used.
- Drink plenty of fluids leading up to the donation, and about an extra 16 ounces of water an hour beforehand.
- Get to bed early the night before to ensure you get enough sleep.
- Make sure your driver’s license and donor card, or two valid pieces of identification, are in your wallet or purse the night before your scheduled donation.
- When preparing your outfit, choose from shirts and jackets with sleeves that can be easily rolled.
- Remember your music and headphones, and reading material. You’ll want something calm to do while waiting to donate and during the donation procedure.
- Once at the donation site, let the staff know if you have a preferred arm or vein for the needle insertion.
While You’re Donating
During the donation, the focus will be on your comfort level, so volunteers will explain everything they’re doing, as well as the equipment they’re using. They will also monitor you and regularly ask you how you are feeling. If you feel lightheaded, or otherwise feel ‘off’, communicate that information. Don’t think that what you feel must be normal. The blood donation process is perfectly safe, but let the staff assess you if you become concerned.
Otherwise, listen to the music you brought (but only with headphones), read, or just relax. You’ll be done in a matter of a few minutes.
After You Donate
Once you’ve finished donating blood, you will be escorted to a rest area where refreshments are served. The goal is to give your body a few minutes to bounce back, and supply it with a sustenance boost. Once you’ve finished your snack and drink, and are ready to go, follow the staff’s instructions carefully.
The directions you’re given should include the following:
- Bandage: Remove the outer wrap bandage (if applicable) within an hour, but keep the strip bandage on for 3-5 hours. Use mild soap and water to gently clean the area around the bandage.
- Hydration: Drink an additional 32 ounces of liquids (while avoiding alcohol) over the first 24 hours.
- Physical Activity: Avoid strenuous exercise or heavy lifting for the first 24 hours. If you do feel dizzy or lightheaded, stop and sit or lie down.
The blood donation process is simple, as are the steps you need to take to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible. Blood is also a critical need that can only be filled by donors. By educating yourself about what to expect and do ahead of time, you discover just how little it takes to have a lifesaving impact on someone else.