Donating blood is a life saving gift. For anyone who has suffered a near fatal accident, or watched a friend or family member cling to life, they will tell you that the gift of blood is the ultimate gift of oneself.
If you plan to donate blood, here are some common questions and answers that American Red Cross would like you to know.
First of all, donating blood is completely safe. All of the needles and bags that will be used are brand new and are used only once, thus ensuring that you are safe from any potential infection.
When you register, you will have to show identification. If you frequently give blood, you can show your blood donor card. If this is your first time, bring your license. You will fill out a consent form and questionnaire.
When you go to donate blood, you will be given a brief exam where a technician will take your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and blood count. You must be 17 or 18 years old depending on your state law, healthy, and at least 110 pounds. You must not have donated blood in the last 8 weeks or donated double red blood cells in the last 16 weeks.
A technician will prick your finger and test your bloods iron levels. If your levels are not high enough you will have to come back in 56 days to try again. Ask your technician for suggestions to raise your iron levels. A phlebotomist will test your hemoglobin levels which must exceed 38% for donation.
The technician that is assisting you may ask you personal questions. They may ask you about your sexual habits or any illegal drug use. Although you may feel uncomfortable answer openly and honestly. If you feel embarrassed and think your blood should not be used, but don't want to walk out, check the box "no, do not use my blood." They will still draw your blood but not use it. You may choose this option if you are giving blood through church, school, or employment.
They may ask if you have HIV, AIDS, infections or any diseases in which case you cannot donate blood. If you are on any antibiotics, you will be asked to come back at a later date. You will have to wait 12 months after having a blood transfusion. You may be sent away if you have traveled to certain countries recently, or had a tattoo or piercing. If you have any questions regarding eligibility, consult the American Red Cross website for a detailed list.
Anything that you discuss with the trained professional taking your blood is strictly confidential. Any infection or disease that is found through standardized testing is confidential and you will be notified in a professional manner. All blood is strictly tested for STDs and additional diseases such as Hepatitis, West Nile Virus, Chagas, HIV, and a variety of others.
Before donating blood, make sure you eat a healthy and balanced meal, drink plenty of liquids (especially juice or milk) and take your medication as prescribed. Eat iron rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, green leafy vegetables or fortified cereals.
Relax as you are giving blood. If you are scared of needles, tell the person drawing your blood. They will help talk you through the process. Wear short sleeve tops, or clothing that can be raised above the elbow that will not constrict you.
Generally, the professional drawing your blood will cleanse the area they are about to draw blood from and insert a needle. They will attach the tube they are using to a bag. Normally, it takes about 7-10 minutes for a pint of blood to be drawn. Don't worry if yours takes longer - mine took nearly an hour. As soon as a pint is collected, they will remove the needle and place a bandage over your arm. The blood, which is collected in a blood bad that contains acid citrate dextrose to prevent your blood from clotting
Once done, you will be directed to an area to enjoy refreshments like juice and cookies. If you feel dizzy sit down, hydrate and eat allowing your body time to adjust to the slightly lower volume of blood.
You will be able to enjoy your day as you normally would. Your body will replace lost plasma in about 24 hours, where as your body will take 3-5 weeks to replace red blood cells and 6-8 weeks to replace lost iron. By eating complex carbohydrates and taking iron supplements, you will speed the recovery process.
All in all, blood donations are a simple process that take little time and save countless lives.