Blood Donor FAQ's

Does it hurt to donate blood?

Very little. With just a slight bit of discomfort, you will be helping someone who is hurting a great deal. During the Medical Screening, there is a finger stick, which is like poking your finger with a pin. Most donors confess that this is the worst part. The actual donation is only a slight pinch, but should not be very painful. One of our donors said: "Take your right hand and pinch the inside of your left arm as hard as you can. Donating blood hurts less than that!"

How old do I have to be?

Donors must be at least 17 years of age (16 with parental consent). There is no upper age limit.

Will I find out what type of blood I have?

Yes. We will be mailing you a thank-you letter for donating, along with a blood type card.

What will my blood be used for?

The leading conditions/procedures that require blood are:

  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Ulcers
  • Traumas & Accidents
  • Anemia
  • Organ Transplant Recipients
  • Obstetric procedures
  • Bone and Joint diseases
  • Lung diseases
  • Liver diseases
  • Kidney diseases
  • Sickle-cell Disease Patients

Who might be using my blood?

  • 1 out of every 10 patients in the hospital will require a blood product.
  • The patient receiving blood uses an average of 3.4 units.
  • Surgical patients use 64% of all blood transfused.
  • Of the blood that is transfused, 57% is used by women.
  • 9% of all surgical patients require blood, 3% of non-surgical patients require transfusions.
  • More than 23 million units of blood components are used each year.
  • Every 3 seconds, someone in this country requires blood.

How often can I donate?

Whole blood can be donated every 56 days, or up to 6 times a year. Platelets can be donated every 2 weeks, or up to 24 times per year.

Should I eat before I donate?

Yes. Donors are encouraged to eat a low-fat meal at least 4 hours before donating blood. It is also recommended that you drink plenty of fluids before your appointment as well.

Can I donate if I have high or low blood pressure?

Each donor's blood pressure is taken before the donation, so generally most can donate. If you are taking blood pressure medication and want to donate, please continue with your medication. Taking blood pressure medication will not disqualify you as a blood donor.

How much blood do I have and how much do you take?

A good rule of thumb is that blood usually accounts for about 7% of your total body weight. The average person has between 9 to 12 pints of blood in circulation at any given time. We will be taking 450ml (one pint), which your body will begin to replenish immediately.

How does my body make blood?

Blood cells are made in the bone marrow. Each red blood cell lives for almost 120 days before it wears out and is replaced by a new one. Platelets are recycled by your body every 5 days. Your body is continually producing and replacing your blood cells, thus making it very safe for you to donate the small portion we need.

How will I feel after I donate?

You should feel the same as you did before you did it! Reactions do sometimes occur, however. Our staff is highly trained to handle any such "light-headedness" you might feel. Most times, they disappear 10 to 15 minutes after having refreshments. This is why we keep you in the chair for 15 minutes after you donate, just in case you experience any difficulties. The chance of a reaction is about one-half of 1%. This is lessened if you have eaten a good meal beforehand and are feeling fit.

Will I need to cut back my activities after a blood donation?

In most cases, no. We ask that you exercise some common sense - drink extra fluids to replenish the loss, and eat a hearty meal to boost your energy. It is also recommended that you do not do any strenuous exercise for 24 hours post donation (jogging, gym, etc.). Otherwise, if you are planning to do something that you normally do, you should be just fine.

Can I catch AIDS (or anything else) by donating blood?

NO! Each finger prick and blood collection is performed with a sterile, disposable, single-use needle. Each needle is used only once and then properly discarded. Communicable diseases cannot be transmitted through needles while they are being used.

Why should I donate?

There is no substitute for human blood; it cannot be manufactured in a lab. Blood transfusions MUST come from other people.

Give the gift of life! To find a blood drive near you, or set up an appointment, please call the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). 
To host a blood drive, please visit the Red Cross website and complete the online contact form. 

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