What To Know About Donating Blood

Did you know that a blood donation of just one pint can save up to three lives? Donating blood doesn’t take very long and can help save the life of someone who has been in an accident, suffering from burns or other trauma, battling cancer or a severe blood disorder, or experiencing complications from childbirth.

Donating blood is safe and easy, and there is always a need for donors. If you would like to donate blood, here is what you need to know: 

Types of Blood Donations

Whole Blood – Most people donate about a pint of blood, which is then separated into plasma, platelets, and red cells to be used as needed. This is the most common type of donation. Units of red blood cells are used in operating and emergency rooms.

Apheresis – During this type of donation, a donor is hooked to a machine that can collect the blood components, separate them, and return fluids back to the body. There are three types of apheresis donations: 

  • Double red cell donation allows for the collection of twice the amount of red blood cells that occur during a whole blood donation. Recipients who need only red blood cells include people who have suffered severe blood loss or anemia.
  • Plasma donation collects plasma, which is the liquid portion of blood that contains proteins and clotting factors. Plasma proteins can help treat a variety of conditions such as liver disease and cancer, burns, emphysema, bleeding disorders, and more. 
  • Platelet donation collects platelets, which are the cells that help form clogs in blood vessels to control bleeding. This is often given to people undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, transplants, and patients with blood disorders. Platelets are only good for five days so donors are in high demand. 

What to know Before, During, and After Donating Blood

Before Your Appointment:

  • Donating blood reduces your body’s iron supply, so eat iron-rich foods such as beans, leafy greens, or poultry in the days leading up to your appointment. You may also want to take an iron supplement. Iron is a mineral found in hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen to your tissues and must be at a certain level in order for it to be safe to donate. 
    • Be sure, however, to avoid fatty foods like hamburgers or fries, as fats can appear in your blood for several hours after eating and affect the tests done on donated blood to look for infections.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before your donation
  • Have a hearty breakfast and drink 16 oz of water before your appointment
  • If you are donating platelets, don’t take aspirin two days before your appointment
  • Wear short sleeves, or a shirt with sleeves that are easy to roll up

During Your Appointment:

  • You’ll need to show a photo ID, complete a registration form, and answer confidential questions about your health, medications, and travel to make sure you are eligible to donate. More information about blood donor requirements can be found here
  • The medical staff will check your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin level. You’ll be asked to wait a few weeks before trying again if your hemoglobin level is too low. This is why it’s important to eat iron-rich food!
  • Relax! Read, watch tv, or sit quietly for the 10-20 minutes it takes to give blood. 

After Your Appointment:

  • You’ll be encouraged to sit and have a beverage and snack. When you are sure you feel well and have no signs of light-headedness, you can leave
  • Plan ahead by making an appointment for your next blood donation before you leave the facility
  • No heavy lifting or exercise for the rest of the day
  • It takes four to eight weeks to replace the blood cells you donated, but your body will replace the plasma within two days. You won’t even notice!

Ready to donate? Click here to book an appointment with the San Diego Blood Bank.

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