Donating blood, for those who haven’t done it before, can seem intimidating. But once you know what to expect, it’s easier to get involved. We’re sharing the basics and benefits of blood donation so you can have the confidence to give to others.
What Happens During a Blood Donation?
First, you will fill out forms about your health history and then undergo a quick physical to determine whether it’s safe for you to donate blood. If you are eligible to donate, a healthcare professional will sanitize an area of your arm and insert a sterile needle. The donation process usually takes around eight to 10 minutes, and it totals one pint of blood plus a few vials used for testing.
Once the donation is complete, the healthcare professional will bandage your arm. You’ll stay at the facility a little while longer for monitoring, and staff members will provide some light snacks to help you recover. Once you’re back home, you should drink about four additional cups of water to replace lost fluids. “Be sure to keep your bandage on for at least five hours, and avoid any strenuous activities for the rest of the day. If at any point you begin to feel dizzy, you should lie down and elevate your feet,” advises Brian Goerig, MD, physician at St. Joseph Health Primary Care William D. Fitch in College Station, Texas.
What Happens After a Blood Donation?
The pint of blood will go to a processing center, where equipment will separate it into three parts—plasma, red blood cells, and platelets—and then store it until a hospital in need requests it. The vials of blood go to a testing facility, where staff will test them for various infectious diseases and confirm your blood type. The processing center receives the results, and if your blood tests positive for any diseases, they will discard your donation and notify you.
Why Should I Donate Blood?
A single whole blood donation can save up to three lives. Your contribution might help someone experiencing a medical emergency, such as severe burns or blood loss, or serve as a regular treatment for someone with a medical condition like cancer or sickle cell disease. Blood has a short shelf life, so frequent contributions are helpful for keeping blood stores up. In most cases, you will be able to give blood 12 to 16 weeks after your previous donation.
You can make a difference in people's lives, one pint at a time. Home to the highest-level trauma center in the Brazos Valley, St. Joseph Health is one of many hospitals that rely on the generosity of the community for blood donations. Please consider donating blood to help patients in need this year.
American Red Cross | What Happens to Donated Blood
American Red Cross | Frequently Asked Questions
American Red Cross | How Blood Donations Help
American Journal of Epidemiology | Donation of Blood Is Associated with Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction
NHS Blood and Transport | How your body replaces blood
New York Times | A Host of Ills When Iron’s Out of Balance