Giving the Gift of Blood: A Guide

Someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds. Donated blood can help patients who need all sorts of treatments: surgeries, organ transplants, cancer treatments, burns, traumas, and chronic diseases. A single blood donation can potentially save up to three lives.

If you’re interested in giving blood, it’s important to be prepared by knowing how donating blood affects your body, what the process is like, and how you can donate locally.

Caring for yourself before and after blood donation

Knowing how to prepare and what to expect after giving blood is important. Once you have made an appointment, follow these tips to prepare for your blood donation.

Before donation:

  • Choose a high-quality iron supplement to maintain normal iron levels after donating
  • Eat healthy meals with foods rich in iron and high in vitamin C
  • Stay hydrated and get a good night’s sleep
  • Drink an extra 16 oz of water before your appointment
  • Wear a sleeveless shirt, or a shirt with sleeves that can be rolled above the elbow

When you donate, you’ll sit in a reclining chair or lie on a table. The arm you choose for donation will be cleaned (if you have an arm preference, let the clinic know). A sterile needle will draw blood from a vein. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes to remove a unit of blood.

After donation:

  • Enjoy some snacks. Bananas, cookies, and fruit juice are often given to donors to increase iron after donating blood.
  • Relax and avoid intense exercise or heavy lifting for the rest of the day. Your body needs time to rest and replenish its iron levels.
  • Be mindful of how you feel. Feeling tired or dizzy is common, but if you have other problems that worry you, call the blood donation center or see a doctor.

If you become a regular blood donor, it’s important to maintain normal iron levels for blood donation.  75% of women who donate 2-3 times/year and 50% of men who donate more than 3 times/year become iron deficient (Mast et. al. 2016).  It may take up to 6 months to restore iron stores after blood donation without supplementation (Cable et. al., 2016)

Whole food iron supplements may help maintain normal iron levels so your body is ready for your next blood draw.

Finding an organization or center to donate blood

Did you know that only 6% of the eligible population donates blood every year in the US? The need for donated blood is high and the amount donated could be greater. Luckily, there are several places you can donate blood.

Find a local blood drive. You can search on the American Red Cross site or call 1-800-RED CROSS for more information.

Visit a nearby blood center. A quick web search will turn up blood donation centers in your neighborhood. You can call or go to their website to schedule an appointment to donate.

Check for mobile blood donation centers. Large hospitals sometimes have their own vehicles (often called bloodmobiles) parked at events or high-traffic locations.  Universities are also involved in blood drives.

Health benefits of giving blood

Donating blood helps patients in need, but it also comes with health benefits for you. Health perks of being a blood donor include:

  • A short physical, which can reveal possible health problems. Your pulse, body temperature, blood pressure, and iron levels will be checked. You’ll be informed if they see any issues. If your iron levels are too low, they won’t draw your blood.
  • Improved emotional well-being. Like volunteering, giving to strangers in need improves happiness and lowers the risk of depression.

The health benefits you receive, along with the knowledge that you’re helping others, may encourage you to become a regular blood donor. The best thing you can do as a frequent blood donor is to keep your iron stores replenished and prepared for your next blood donation.

Whole food iron supplements can help you maintain your normal iron levels so you can keep saving lives! NeuTerre Whole Food Iron Supplements offers a line of premium koji whole food iron supplements that are slow release and gentle on your body, making it easy for you to donate regularly without feeling the effects of low iron.