Did you know that many Americans will need blood or a blood product at some point in their lifetime? But sadly, only a small percentage of healthy Americans who are eligible to donate blood actually do donate each year.
In general, to give blood, you must:
Giving blood may seem scary, but it is a simple process. By knowing what to expect, you can take the mystery—and the fear—out of giving blood.
When you arrive at the blood drive or center, you will go through an interview. The interview will be private and confidential. You will need to provide your name, birth date, and valid identification.
The American Red Cross will do a mini-physical that includes checking your temperature, blood pressure, and pulse. They will also check a drop of your blood to make sure you have enough red blood cells to donate safely.
You will need to answer questions about your health status and lifestyle. Depending on your answers, you may be deferred from donating blood, either temporarily or permanently.
Let your interviewer know if you have any allergies, especially to latex, bandaging, or tape. Notify them if you do not feel well, have a fever, or have traveled abroad.
Now you are ready to give blood. Donated blood comes from a needle inserted into a vein in your arm or hand. All equipment is sterile and used one time. You may feel a small sting from the needle. You do not have to watch the process if it makes you feel uncomfortable. The actual donation will take about 8-10 minutes.
When the process is complete, you will be given some snacks, such a juice and cookies, for energy. Most people do not experience problems after donating blood. Occasionally, some may experience:
These effects are temporary and fade in a short time. If you change your mind and do not want your blood donated, you can call the donation center. The number will be on a form that is given to you when you leave.
There are situations when you are not eligible to give blood, such as a current illness. Some restrictions are temporary, meaning you can donate after a specific period of time. Other restrictions are permanent. Examples of situations where you should not give blood include but are not limited to:
Note that these guidelines change on an as needed basis, and they may vary from region to region. For the most up-to-date information please contact the American Red Cross nearest you or check their website .
Giving blood is a way you can give back to society. It is simple, free, and saves lives. A single blood donation can save up to three lives. To find out where you can donate blood, call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.
American Red Cross
United Blood Services
Canadian Blood Services
Donation process. American Red Cross website. Available at: http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/donation-process. February 4, 2016.
Eligibility criteria by alphabetical listing. American Red Cross website. Available at: http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-alphabetical-listing. Accessed February 4, 2016.
Eligibility requirements. American Red Cross website. Available at: http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements. Accessed February 4, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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