When you drive past a blood donation bus, are you struck with the desire to help? Or does the idea of giving blood make you queasy? Blood donation might seem daunting and painful, but it’s actually described as little more than a quick prick. Plus, the process only lasts a few minutes. Plus, blood donations save lives across the world — 5 million patients receive blood each year, with a total of 14.6 million blood transfusions annually in the United States. Every two seconds in the United States, a person is in need of a blood transfusion. That’s why giving blood is so important!
To donate blood, you must be:
- In good general health, and feeling well on the day of your appointment
- At least 17 years old
- At least 110 pounds
There are some restrictions on who can donate blood:
- If you are pregnant, you must wait until after giving birth to be able to donate
- People with certain diseases and health conditions, like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, or sickle cell disease, are not eligible to donate blood. Some conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, must be controlled before you can donate, while other diseases, like syphilis or gonorrhea, prevent you from donating for a certain amount of time
- People who have traveled to areas where certain diseases (like malaria or Creutzfeld-Jakob/mad cow disease) are prevalent may be restricted from giving blood for a certain period of time. They may be restricted entirely, depending on the amount of time they spent in that area
- Certain medications, such as blood thinners, may prevent you from donating blood
- If you have recently gotten a tattoo, you must wait at least 12 months before being eligible to donate blood
Blood donation should be an incredibly safe process. The person who draws your blood will be a nurse or other certified medical professional, and will do their best to make you feel comfortable, and answer any questions you may have. A brand new, sterilized needled is used for each donor, and then discarded afterwards, which ensures that infectious diseases, like HIV, will not be spread. You are encouraged to stay in a waiting area after your donation, and can stay until you feel well enough to go home; if you feel sick or faint after a blood donation, medical professionals will be there to assist you.
If you feel that a blood donation center is unsanitary or improperly disposing of needles, you should not donate blood. Improper sanitary conditions could result in the spread of infectious diseases.
To prepare for a successful blood donation, you should:
- Maintain an iron-rich diet to keep your blood healthy — this includes red meats, fish, beans, and spinach
- Get plenty of sleep the night before your donation
- Drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol or fatty foods
- If you are planning on donating platelets, do not take aspirin for at least 48 hours prior to your donation
- Wear a shirt with sleeves that can be easily rolled up
- Remember: if you are not feeling well the day of your appointment, you should reschedule!
- Following your donation, you should avoid alcohol for the next 24 hours, as well as any strenuous activity. If you aren’t feeling well, rest.
If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to let the person taking your blood know. They are there to help you! They are grateful that you are donating blood, and want to make sure you are comfortable.
If needles and blood scare you, it’s perfectly okay — you can help in other ways, like volunteering to hand out snacks at a blood drive event, or by giving volunteer time or monetary donations to a local hospital. Any help counts!
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