Guide to Donating Blood: What to Know Before You Go |

January 13, 2017

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Donating blood can be a scary thought. The idea of the needle alone might make you squirm and send shivers down your spine. Before you run for the hills, know that if you can be brave for roughly seven minutes, (yes, that’s all it takes to donate!) you will help save a life. Did you know that you’re eligible to donate blood if you are over 17 years old, in good health, and weigh at least 110 pounds? It’s estimated that 60 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, but only 5 percent do. Without these crucial blood transfusions, 4.5 million more Americans would die each year.1

Why Donate?

What happens after your blood is taken? Your blood is sent to labs for rigorous testing, where approximately 12 tests are performed. After testing and once your blood is declared “safe” for transfusion, it is then transferred to hospitals and clinics in need. Depending on your blood type, your donation could be used in a variety of situations. People who have the blood type O-negative are universal donors, and their red blood cells can be transfused into anyone regardless of the recipient’s blood type. When doctors are in emergency situations and don’t have the time or capability to check the patient’s blood type, they will use O-negative blood. This means O-negative blood is always in high demand. Emergency situations are just some of the many instances blood transfusions are performed. Anemic patients often receive transfusions to increase their iron levels, while some people with sickle cell disease encounter complications and require a transfusion every month. Patients with long-term illnesses or battling cancer, premature infants, and patients undergoing open-heart surgeries may also be the recipient of your gift

How to Prepare for a Successful Blood Donation

There are a few things you can do before going to the blood clinic to ensure your donation goes smoothly. To feel your best, be sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep the night before. It is also important that you wear a shirt that allows the blood technician easy access to your arms. I suggest wearing short sleeves, or a loose-fitting shirt that can easily be rolled up. If you are concerned about being cold or have an appointment during a workday, a cardigan or zip-up sweater is a great option. Don’t forget to double-check that you have your donor card or two pieces of ID before leaving home.
One of the first things the technicians will do when you check in is prick your finger to check your hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein responsible for giving your blood its red color.3 To qualify to donate blood, your hemoglobin levels must be at least 12.5 g/dl in women and 13.0 g/dl in men. If your hemoglobin levels are too low, you will be asked to postpone your donation until they increase.
Iron directly affects your body’s ability to produce hemoglobin. If you don’t have a preexisting condition such as anemia, a delicious way to ensure that your hemoglobin levels pass the finger stick test is to indulge in a juicy steak the night before. If you do not eat meat, lentils, beans, dried fruit, tofu, and eggs can also help boost your iron and hemoglobin levels. Try to avoid fatty foods before your appointment, as this can lead to an excess of fat in your blood and interfere with the testing process, rendering your blood unusable.
Being well hydrated is another important component to a successful donation. Try to drink an additional two cups of water the day of your appointment. This will help regulate your blood pressure and reduce the likelihood of you feeling dizzy or fainting. If your blood pressure is below 90/50 or higher than 180/100, you will be asked to reschedule your appointment.4 If you are concerned about your blood pressure, talk to your doctor prior to the appointment.
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