Advice for novice or experienced blood donors

Unlike other marvels of modern medicine, quality blood is an important health component that cannot be created synthetically.

Blood shortages continue to plague medical establishments across the globe. For those who require transfusions, blood from volunteer donors can be the difference between life and death. However, many people are apprehensive about donating blood because of their own unique fears of the unknown or from past poor experiences with the process. With a little knowledge and some preparation, donating blood can be made much easier.

Confirming donors’ health

One of the first steps to donating blood is to determine donors’ eligibility. Potential donors undergo a short health screening and are asked various questions to determine their eligibility. The presence of certain illnesses or other disqualifications helps ensure that the blood will be healthy and that the blood drawn will not have a negative effect on the donor.

The American Red Cross states that potential donors will undergo a pin prick on the finger to test for iron levels in their blood. This is to ensure that donors will not be made anemic from giving blood.

Frequency of donation, weight and age also will be considered before prospective donors are allowed to donate blood. Many organizations urge prospective donors to avoid giving blood if they have had simple dental work done within 24 hours or major dental work in the past month. Dental work in general can dislodge bacteria, which can get into the blood stream and cause systemic infection.

Preparing to donate

Potential donors are urged to eat a healthy diet full of iron-rich foods. It is adviseable to drink an extra 16 ounces of water or a nonalcoholic fluid prior to donating. A healthy, low-fat meal prior to donating also is recommended, as the Red Cross says fatty foods can adversely affect blood tests that check for infectious diseases, and the blood may not be used as a result.

Needles are no big deal

According to Justin Kreuter, MD, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester, Minnesota, while the needles used to collect blood are slightly larger than those used for immunizations at the doctor’s office, the needles have silicone on them to make the process of donating more comfortable for donors.

Donation duration

Donating blood does not take a long time. It may take between 15 and 20 minutes for donation center workers to extract blood. Donating plasma or platelets may require more time. Allocate at least an hour to undergo the medical exam and to rest after the donation.


Donors are urged to rest for a few minutes after the donating and to enjoy the snacks and beverages being offered. The Red Cross says people should avoid performing any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for the rest of the day after donating. It’s also adviseable to drink an extra four glasses of liquids and avoid alcohol during the day following a donation.

Donating blood can save lives and reassure donors that they’re doing their part to help others.