Donating Blood: Giving the Gift of Life

IMAGE 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.

Who Is Eligible to Give Blood?

In general, to give blood, you must:
  • Be healthy
  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Weigh a minimum of 110 pounds

What to Expect When Donating Blood

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

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.

When You Give Blood

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:
  • Upset stomach
  • Faint or lightheaded feeling
  • Black and blue mark, redness, or pain where the needle was inserted
  • Very rarely, a person may faint, have muscle spasms, and/or suffer nerve damage
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.

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