Blood donation is a relatively simple procedure that makes a huge difference in other people’s lives. While blood collection takes approximately 10-50 minutes, the whole process can take up to 3 hours depending on the blood component donated.
Preparation For Blood Donation Process
Prior to donating blood, the donor should assess their health and only give blood if they do not feel sick. It is also important to eat a hearty breakfast or lunch before donating devoid of fatty foods as they can alter blood test results.
Prior to Blood Donation
Donors will answer some questions about their health. These questions are of a personal nature in order to ensure that the donor’s blood is safe, although the blood will also be tested for quality as well following donation. A health care provider will also measure the donor’s vitals (temperature, heart rate, blood pressure) and give him/her a finger stick test to determine whether he/she has enough iron to donate.
During the process, the health care provider drawing blood will temporarily stop blood flow to the lower arm by tightening a band around the donor’s upper arm. This is done so that the veins in the lower arm become more visible and aid placement of the needle. The blood will be collected from the inside of the elbow. This needle entry site is swabbed with alcohol to clean the area. A new sterile needle attached to a bag is then placed in the vein. Some people experience no pain while others experience a temporary sting or pinch. If the vein collapses, needle insertion may take multiple tries. Donors may also be given a soft or foam ball to squeeze from time to time to improve blood flow. The blood is then collected in a bag for whole blood donation or sifted through an apheresis machine for specific blood components. In the case of whole blood donation, once the bag is full (after approximately a pint or 480mL have been collected), the needle is removed and a cotton swab is placed over the collection site. In the case of blood component donation, the uncollected blood components are sent back into the donor’s other arm through a needle, and the needles are removed. After applying pressure to the needle entry and exit sites, a bandage is added to prevent bleeding. This bandage should be kept on and dry for 5 hours.
After Blood Donation
Donor’s typically rest for 10 to 15 minutes following donation and eats small snacks to allow their body to adjust to the change in blood volume. It is recommended that donors drink an extra four glasses of liquids and avoid intense exercise or lifting. If the donor becomes dizzy, they should immediately lie down with their feet above their head until they feel normal again.
While the plasma in the blood replenishes after 24 hours, it takes 4-6 weeks to complete whole blood replacement.
Who Can Donate
In order to donate blood in the United States, you must be at least 17 years old. However, some states let 16-year-olds donate if they have their parent’s permission. You must also weigh 110lb (50kg), although this requirement may be different for individuals between 16 and 22 years old. Donors must be healthy as well. All donors should also bring valid identification to donate.
Who Can’t Donate
There are multiple reasons why someone may be ineligible to donate. Those that have recently donated have to wait a specific amount of time before donating again. The time in between donations depends on what type of donation was made. For plasma donations, the donor must wait.
Drugs and Medications:
- Individuals currently taking antibiotics, since the individual likely has an illness or infection that needs to be treated
- Illegal drug use or use of drugs not prescribed
- Individuals that received a vaccine may also have to wait from 2 weeks to up to a month
- Individuals that have taken Accutane (an acne medication), Propecia, or Proscar cannot donate until one month after treatment
Individuals taking tegison cannot donate
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- Blood Cancers such as Hodgkin, Leukemia, Lymphomas
- Hepatitis: People that currently have the disease or a history of the disease after age 11
- Individuals that were prevented from traveling to the United Kingdom and Western Europe due to concerns related to Mad Cow Disease
- While they are not prevented from donating, those with diabetes that is not well-controlled should not donate
- Individuals that have or may be about to experience the flu or a cold
- Individuals that have had cancer or cancer treatments in the last 5 years
- Individuals that had non-melanoma skin cancer that is in the healing process following tumor removal
- Individuals that have had malaria in the last 12 months
- Individuals that had gonorrhea or syphilis less than 12 months prior
- Individuals with heart disease cannot donate until they have not experienced symptoms for 6 months and have no physical activity restrictions
- Visited the United Kingdom for at least 3 months between 1980 and 1996
- Lived in European countries for a total of 5 years or more after 1980
- U.S. Military personnel or military civilians that lived at least 6 total months on a military based in Spain,
- Portugal, Turkey, Italy or Greece between 1980 and 1997
- U.S. Military personnel or military civilians that lived at least 6 total months on a military based in Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany between 1980 and 1991
- U.S. military that served in Iraq or Afghanistan cannot donate blood for one year after their stay
- Travel to countries where malaria transmission occurs, even if the individual did not become sick.
- Individuals that immigrated from a country where malaria transmission occurs may not donate until 3 years after they migrated
- Engaged in prostitution since 1977
- Individuals that received a piercing in their ear, tongue or other body part with a needle of unknown sterility cannot donate until one year after the piercing
- Individuals currently or previously imprisoned
Pregnancy and Childbirth:
- Pregnant women also may not donate
- Because it is not known if donating after childbirth can negatively impact the mother, women that have given birth should not donate blood until 6 weeks after giving birth
Blood and Cardiac Characteristics:
- Individuals with low levels of hemoglobin also may be ineligible for donation.
- People with very high or low blood pressure also cannot donate.