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What to Expect when you Donate Blood

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"What to Expect when you Donate Blood"
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Donating blood takes up just a little bit of your time, and a small amount of blood that is soon replenished by your body. The benefits of this service to the patient's who need your blood make the whole process very worthwhile even if you are nervous and worried the first time that you are donating.

In both Sydney, or the United Kingdom, donating blood can be done at a blood donation centre, or at a mobile unit. If it is your fist time donating, it is probably a little bit easier to go to a special blood donation centre as there tend to be more staff available to answer any questions that you have and to help you through the process.

When you register you will be given a list of questions that you will need to answer. Some of them relate to your health and are fairly basic questions. They include asking you if you have eaten on the day that you are donating blood, if you have had any surgery recently, or if you are or could be pregnant. You will also be asked questions about your recent travel as travelling to some countries in Africa and India puts you at a slightly higher risk of picking up some diseases that may affect your blood. After answering the basic questions, you will need to answer some more personal questions. These relate to your sexual activities, any drug use, and whether or not you have had tattoos or treatment that involved the use of blood products. Asking is you could be HIV positive is also a standard question. While these questions may be embarrassing to answer, be completely honest about them. The nurses are not there to judge you, they are simply there to protect any potential patient who could receive your blood. If you know that you area at risk of carrying any disease that could be transmitted to someone through the use of your blood then be honest and do not be surprised if your blood is not accepted.

Once you have been through the list of questions with the nurse, your blood pressure is tested and your haemoglobin levels are checked. If your haemoglobin levels are too low, then you will be unable to donate blood on the day. You will still be able to try to donate blood some time in the future and the nurses will be able to tell you how to increase your levels. If your haemoglobin levels are fine then you will be taken to a bed or a reclining chair. You are usually given the choice of having a local anaesthetic to numb your arm before the needle is inserted in it. However, my theory is, why suffer the pain of two needles when the second one is not too bad anyway? Your will have a tourniquet put around our arm to make it easier to locate your vein. Once the needle connecting the blood collection bag is inserted in your arm the tourniquet is loosened. You are also usually given something to squeeze to help maintain the flow of blood. Once the correct level of blood has been collected, the machines that are used to measure the blood flow automatically cut off the collection so there is no danger that you will lose too much blood.

After the blood collection has finished, usually about fifteen minutes, the needle is removed and the nurse will apply some pressure to your veins to stop the flow of blood. A plaster is then applied with a light bandage and you are escorted to the cafe area where you are offered a wide variety of drinks, sandwiches, biscuits or a variety of other snacks. If it is your first time donating then they usually ask you to stay for about twenty minutes just to check that your body has reacted well to the loss of blood.

Once your blood has been collected, it will be screened for things such as Hepatitis and HIV, if any of these results do come back positive then you will receive a confidential letter to tell you about the results and you will be invited to the centre to talk to one of the doctors.

In Australia and the UK you are allowed to donate blood every three months provided that you are fit and healthy.

Although it can be quite nerve racking the first time, and it is not unusual to faint after your first donation, there is such a desperate shortage of blood that it really is a worthwhile thing to consider doing.

More about this author: Lara Anne

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