Give Blood: What to Expect Before and After Your Donation

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Learn how you can prepare to give blood, and what steps to take afterwards, to make it easy to help.

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood.

Donating blood can help people who go through disasters or emergencies, who lose blood during major surgeries, who have lost blood due to a gastrointestinal bleed, women who have severe complications during pregnancy or childbirth and people with cancer or severe anemia sometimes caused by sickle cell disease.

When you make the decision to give blood, you’ll need to find a local blood bank or blood drive and make an appointment. Select a donation type (whole blood, platelets, red cells or plasma), and find a convenient time that works best for you.

But sure to ask about any specific requirements for donors and what kind of identification to bring with you. You’ll need to be at least 16 years old to donate whole blood in most states (at least 17 to donate platelets), weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health and be feeling well. You’ll typically donate about one pint (one unit) of blood. The process should take at least a half hour. If you’re donating platelets, red cells or plasma, the process can take up to two hours.

A few days before you give blood, you should watch your nutrition. Eat iron rich foods, such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans, spinach, iron-fortified cereals or raisins. Avoid fatty foods like hamburgers, fries or ice cream. Get a good night’s sleep the night before your donation and drink extra liquids. Wear a shirt with short sleeves or sleeves that you can roll up above your elbows. Most importantly, RELAX, listen to music, talk to other donors or read while you donate.

After you give blood, sit in the recovery area for a few minutes and have some cookies or other snacks – you’ve earned it! Drink an extra four (8 oz.) glasses of liquids and avoid alcohol over the next 24 hours. Don’t do any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for the rest of the day. If you experience dizziness or lightheadedness, stop what you’re doing and sit or lie down until you feel better. Keep eating iron rich foods. If you donate frequently, be sure to take a multivitamin with iron to ensure you continue to replenish your iron levels before your next donation.

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