Tips & Advice
Are there any side effect to donating blood?
One study cited by the National Institutes of Health found only 1.2 percent of blood donors experienced any kind of adverse reaction from giving blood. The most common side effects from giving blood are relatively mild:
Very rarely, blood donors may vomit or faint immediately after the procedure. This is generally benign and will resolve itself within hours. Donors should seek medical attention if they experience significant pain or tingling in their arm and around the injection site, or if bruising does not subside within a week. If a donor shows signs of a cold or flu in the days following the procedure, they should call the blood center since this may make the blood sample unsafe to use.
- Lightheadedness upon standing is common. Donors are encouraged to rest for at least 15 minutes after the procedure while drinking water and eating a small snack. Some donors find they become nauseous after the procedure, but this should subside quickly.
- Pain and some bruising around the injection site is common. Pain should be mild, but it is normal for bruising to persist for several days.
- For a few days afterward, the loss of blood may induce dizziness or feelings of weakness when performing strenuous activity. Donors are advised to avoid physical exertion for 24 hours after the procedure, and to be cautious when exercising for the following week.
Do blood donors get paid for their donation?
By definition, blood donation is voluntary and done without compensation. Some blood banks do offer cash or other rewards for giving blood. Whether donors are paid or not, blood banks typically serve as intermediaries between blood sources and hospitals. Even voluntarily donated blood is usually tested, separated and sold to medical services for use in blood transfusions and other procedures.
Is it safe to give blood?
Blood donations are considered safe when performed by trained professionals who follow all the necessary procedures. In healthy donors, side effects are generally mild (see below), and serious complications are rare.
Are there restrictions on who can donate blood?
Different organizations have their own restrictions on who is eligible to give blood. The most common requirements stipulate donors must be old enough to give legal consent (17 in most states) and should be in good physical health. Most organizations prohibit donations from people with diseases that can be transmitted through blood, such as HIV and hepatitis. Beyond that, organizations may prevent donations from people who have traveled to or lived in certain countries where there is a greater risk of disease.
There might be additional restrictions in place as eligibility for blood donation is at the sole discretion of the organization collecting it.
How often can someone donate blood?
Blood centers typically allow eligible donors to undergo a whole blood donation once every 16 weeks (56 days). Donations through apheresis are allowed every seven days, up to 24 times per year.
How long does it take for the human body to replenish the donated blood?
One advantage of the apheresis process is that the donor’s blood levels are replenished by the body much faster -- within 24 hours -- compared to whole blood. In the case of whole blood, it can take up to six weeks before red blood cell levels return to normal. Donors are often advised to avoid strenuous physical activity for a few days after whole blood donation.
How long does a blood donation take?
Donating whole blood may only take about 10 minutes. Apheresis or platelet donation can take up to two hours. In either case, donors will need to be screened, which could take up some additional time.
How does the blood donation process work?
Blood can either be donated to a charity organization or sold. In either case, the blood must first be drawn by a trained staff member. The process is generally the same in either case:
- First, the donor is screened for health and safety with a questionnaire. This involves several questions about the donor’s medical history as well as where they may have traveled recently. There are several diseases and disorders that may prevent someone from giving blood.
- Next, some of the donor’s vitals are checked. This usually includes getting a temperature reading (to check for signs of fever), testing blood pressure, and checking hemoglobin levels (the iron-carrying protein in red blood cells).
- The donation process itself varies depending on the method chosen. The most common and fastest method is a “whole blood” donation, in which one pint of blood is collected through an intravenous needle. In some cases, donors may be able to give through apheresis, in which blood is routed through a machine to separate it. The machine collects blood platelets, which are used in certain medical procedures, but returns the rest to the donor. Apheresis may take up to two hours, but may be less taxing on the donor.
- Finally, the donor is often given time to rest and eat a snack. The snack aims to replenish lost nutrients and fluids.
A blood bank is a medical facility where human blood may be collected, separated into constituent parts and stored. The blood is sourced from organizations that collect blood from donors or people who offer cash for blood collection. After the blood bank tests and separates the blood, it can then be sold to hospitals for use in blood transfusions, surgery and other medical procedures. Blood products are also commonly used for research purposes.