Whether you’re a first-timer or a regular donor, it’s important to know what to do before giving blood. The key thing to remember when donating blood is to be sure you give your body plenty of iron and fluids before and after you donate. Iron helps carry oxygen to your blood cells, and low iron levels cause dizziness and fatigue. If you remember to keep drinking water (or other non-alcoholic beverages) and eat iron-rich foods, your blood donation is much more likely to be a success!
The demand for blood is always high, and regardless if you donate blood for a personal motive or for the free snacks, you’re still helping to save lives. Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of blood donation to keep in mind.
What to do before giving blood
Before you decide to donate blood, here are some things to check for and execute before you arrive to your donation location:
- Eligibility: Check to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements to donate blood. Factors including age, medications, and some health concerns could prohibit you from donating blood. For more information, check out our blog post on giving blood restrictions for a more simplistic view, or visit the American Red Cross Eligibility Listing for a full list of blood donor restrictions.
- Registration: You’ll fill out a registration form that will ask for personal information including your name, address, and a donor identification number (if applicable) along with a list of medications you’re currently taking. Make sure to also bring a form of ID.
- Drink water: A good portion of the blood donated is made up of water, so be sure to drink water before and after donating. Most locations advise drinking about 16 ounces of water beforehand. This will help reduce fatigue and dizziness after donating by keeping your body hydrated and replenished.
- Eat iron-rich foods: What is the best thing to eat before giving blood? Iron-rich foods such as chicken, red meat, fish, spinach, broccoli, beans, iron-certified cereals, and lentils are essential for helping your body replace the red blood cells you lose during donation.
- Dress for success: Be sure to wear a shirt with sleeves that can be rolled above the elbow, or just a short-sleeved shirt. This is an often overlooked tip for what to do before giving blood, but it can make the whole process a lot more comfortable and easy for everyone involved.
- Make sure you’re feeling well: You need to be in good health in order to give blood; you’ll be turned away if you’re running a fever or have an active cough. Unfortunately, flu season typically sees a dip in much-needed blood donations since so many people are turned away due to illness. Want to make sure the flu doesn’t keep you from donating? Read our article on Staying Healthy During the Flu Season.
Check out more details on how to get ready for a blood donation on the American Red Cross Guide for First-Time Donors.
What should you not do before giving blood
Now that we’ve covered what to do before giving blood (the do’s) we need to discuss the don’ts. While some of these points may seem obvious, these tips are crucial to help you avoid feeling awful after your blood donation for a speedy and healthy recovery.
- Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages: We know a lot of people ask, “Can I drink coffee before donating blood?” While it won’t directly affect the blood being donated, caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea can block the essential iron your blood absorbs. while alcohol can lead to dehydration. Basically, it’s more likely you’ll feel bad after giving blood when consuming these beverages before you donate. Try and stick with water before donating blood for less side effects later.
- Don’t skip breakfast: Failing to fuel your body before you donate blood will result in nausea and dizziness. Start your day out right with a breakfast that incorporates those iron-rich foods (can’t go wrong with eggs!). Try to eat 2-3 hours before your donation to keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid fatty and rich foods that can block iron from being absorbed into your blood.
- Don’t skip the snacks: After your donation, you’ll be offered refreshments and it’s strongly advised that you eat and drink to refuel your body. If you run straight to work after giving blood, you could feel faint and lightheaded which can result in fainting. So, take the snacks, you deserve them!
- Don’t donate blood if you’re sick: The truth is the health of a blood donor matters. If you’re fighting an illness, especially if you’re taking medications like antibiotics, you will be asked to wait to donate blood. If you don’t feel well or are running a fever, consider rescheduling your donation appointment.
What to do after donating blood
You’ve donated blood! You can pat yourself on the back for doing a good thing for the community. However, keep in mind that when it comes to giving blood, aftercare is almost as important as preparation. We’ve covered what to do before giving blood, here’s what to do after.
- Snack and relax: Take a few minutes after your donation to have a snack. It’s important to give your body a second to adjust and restore your energy before you go about your day. Keep eating those iron-rich foods throughout the day to give your body back the iron you’ve lost during donation.
- Drink more fluids: Replenishing your body of all the lost fluids is a top priority after donating blood. Try to drink at least four more glasses of water throughout the day and avoid alcoholic beverages.
- Avoid intense exercise: Skip the weightlifting for today to avoid potentially fainting. Give your body a little time to recover and take a walk instead if you still feel the need to exercise.
- Keep your bandage on: For the next few hours after donation, keep your bandage on to avoid any unwanted infections. Be sure to clean the area with soap and water.
- Tell your loved ones!: You deserve to brag a little bit about the good deed you did. Encourage your family and friends to donate blood if they can! The more people that chip in, the more lives that can be saved.
If you have additional questions about what to do before giving blood, the blood donation process, orthe COVID-19 protocol, visit the American Red Cross FAQs for more information.
Feeling bad after giving blood? Complete Care can help.
At Complete Care, we use donated blood on a daily basis to help save the lives of our patients. Just one donation can help save up to three lives! Find a local blood drive near you and schedule a date to donate today.
However, even if you know exactly what to do before giving blood, you can still feel dehydrated, nauseous, and potentially faint afterwards. This usually happens if your blood pressure drops due to dehydration. If this happens to you, Complete Care is open 24/7 and welcomes walk-ins that can typically be seen within a few minutes, not hours. Our stand alone emergency room facilities are able to offer our patients with the same level of care as an emergency room attached to a hospital, but without the wait time.
We are here for any of your health concerns. Visit your nearest Complete Care location today for quick, efficient, patient-centered care today.
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