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Donating Blood

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What happens when you donate blood?

You will fill out some forms and answer questions about your health.

A health professional will measure your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. He or she also will use a finger-stick test to make sure that you have enough iron in your blood.

The health professional will clean the arm you will use to give blood. Then he or she will put a needle into a vein on the inside of your elbow. The needle is attached to a bag to collect the blood. You will probably feel a quick pinch when the needle goes in.

You may be given a soft ball or another object to squeeze every few seconds to help the blood flow.

When the bag is full, the health professional will take out the needle. He or she will wrap a bandage around your arm to stop any bleeding.

What should you do AFTER you give blood?

Right after giving blood, you'll be asked to sit for a while and have some water or juice and a snack.

When you leave, get up slowly to make sure that you're not lightheaded.

In the hours after you give blood, make sure to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help replace the lost fluid.
  • Eat foods that have a lot of iron, such as lean red meat, raisins, and beans.
  • Limit your physical activity for several hours.

Most people feel fine after they give blood. But if you feel a little lightheaded, lie down for a while. Drink plenty of fluids, and have some snacks. Call the blood bank or clinic if you feel sick within 24 hours after giving blood.

Your body will replace the lost fluid in 24 hours. (It takes a few weeks to replace red blood cells.) You will have to wait 56 days before you can give whole blood again.

What are the risks of donating blood?

There are no health risks in giving blood. You CANNOT get AIDS or other diseases from donating blood. The needle and bag used to collect blood are sterile and prepackaged. A new package is used every time.

You may have a small bruise on your arm. In rare cases, a person's arm may bleed after the bandage is taken off. If this happens, raise your arm and put pressure on the needle site for several minutes.

What tests are done on donated blood?

After donation, your blood is tested for certain diseases, such as hepatitis B and C, HIV, West Nile virus, and HTLV-I/II viruses. Donated blood must pass all of these tests. If any disease is detected, the blood is thrown away and the donor is notified. The blood is tracked so it can be traced back to the donor and the collection location.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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