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Guide: What to expect when donating blood

As a blood donor, you are a vital part of a team of individuals working together to save lives. Here is what to expect when donating blood.

Sandrina Rodrigues

Jan 9, 2024, 9:30 AM

Updated 189 days ago

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Are you thinking of donating blood for the first time?
As a blood donor, you are a vital part of a team of individuals working together to save lives. 
Below is what to expect when donating blood.

DO YOU QUALIFY?

  • Most people qualify as blood donors, even if they are taking medications, according to the Connecticut Blood Center. Below are some basic requirements to donate:
  • In good health;
  • 17 years or older (16 with a parent or guardian’s written consent);
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds (donors aged 16 must weigh at least 130 pounds);
  • Free of antibiotics for 24 hours, unless taken for acne;
  • Symptom-free for at least 72 hours following cold or flu;
  • Some medical conditions/medications, recent tattoos, piercings, or travel may impact eligibility. Click here to learn more about common reasons people can’t donate.

WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOUR DONATION:

  • Ask a friend to donate at the same time – you can support each other and do twice as much good!

WHAT TO DO ON THE DAY OF YOUR DONATION:

  • Photo ID: Bring your donor card, driver's license or two other forms of identification.
  • Medication list: They need to know about all prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking.
  • Drink an extra 16 ounces of water (or other nonalcoholic drink) before your appointment.
  • Eat a healthy meal, avoiding fatty foods like hamburgers, fries or ice cream.
  • Wear a shirt with sleeves that you can roll up above your elbows.
  • Let them know if you have a preferred arm or particular vein that has been used successfully in the past to draw blood.
  • Relax, listen to music, talk to other donors or read while you donate.

WHAT TO DO AFTER YOU DONATION:

  • Enjoy a snack – you’ve earned it!
  • Drink extra liquids – Drink an extra four (8 ounces) glasses of liquids and avoid alcohol over the next 24 hours.
  • Tell others about your good deed – the gratification of giving blood is a feeling you'll want to share.
  • Keep the strip bandage on for the next several hours; to avoid a skin rash, clean the area around the bandage with soap and water.
  • Don’t do any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for the rest of the day.
  • If the needle site starts to bleed, apply pressure and raise your arm straight up for 5-10 minutes or until bleeding stops.
  • Keep eating iron-rich foods
Click here for more tips from the American Red Cross


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