Red Cross Blood Donations: Tips to Help You Prepare to Give Blood

By: Ananya Adur, American Red Cross – Indiana Region Volunteer

Donating blood can often seem daunting, and many people may not know how to prepare to give blood for a blood drive. In addition, some potential concerns that donors may consider which can prevent them from ever giving blood. Thankfully, a person can do plenty of things to feel ready for their blood drive. With some preparation and information, donating blood can quickly become a simple process to help those in need.

Important Donor Requirements

The most crucial information necessary to attend a blood drive is understanding the requirements to donate. Two main requirements are that you must weigh at least 110 lbs and be in good health. These needs can also vary depending on a person’s blood donation. 

The Difference Between Whole Blood and Power Red Donations

For example, there are Whole Blood donations and Power Red donations, which have different necessities and purposes. Whole Blood is the most flexible type of donation; it can be used for transfusions or separated into components before being utilized. This type of blood donation is generally used for surgeries and trauma patients. All blood types are accepted. A Power Red donation is when a donor gives a concentrated dose of red blood cells. Professionals use an automated process that separates the red blood cells from the other components of blood, plasma and platelets, which are returned to the donor. These Power Red donations are given often to trauma patients, newborns requiring transfusions, patients with sickle cell anemia, or someone with blood loss. The ideal blood types are O positive, O negative, A negative, and B negative. Understanding more about the kind of donation you plan to give, the requirements, and who the donation will be going to can help you feel more at ease. 

What to do the Day Before You Give Blood

You can do many things the day before your appointment to prepare. Iron-rich foods, such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans, spinach, iron-fortified cereals or raisins can help your body make new red blood cells and replace those lost through blood donation. The Red Cross has a food guide that can help donors understand what foods may help them through the process. Eating healthy foods, drinking more liquids, and getting a good night’s rest can also be more beneficial on the day of your blood donation. Be sure to look at the Red Cross Health and Wellness Guide for further questions.

What to do the Day You Give Blood

For the day of your donation, make sure to bring a photo ID, like a donor card or a driver’s license, and a medication list if you have one. There are plenty of tips to help you feel more comfortable the day you donate blood, such as drinking an extra 16 oz of water before your appointment, and avoiding fatty foods before donating. In addition, make sure to wear a shirt with sleeves that you can roll up above your elbows and let the professionals know the preferred arm or vein that had success in drawing blood.

What to do After You Give Blood 

After your donation, relax and feel proud of yourself! Donating helps millions of people in need, and with your support, the American Red Cross can help save more lives. Enjoy a snack and drink an extra four glasses of water. Keep the strip bandage on for the next several hours and to avoid a skin rash, clean the area around the bandage with soap and water. Make sure to avoid any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for the rest of the day, it will take a while for the blood to replenish itself, and your body needs some rest. If the needle site starts to bleed, apply pressure and raise your arm straight up for 5-10 minutes or until the bleeding stops. These tips are simply for reassurance, to make sure you feel happy and healthy after your donation. Giving blood is a wonderful act, and being prepared is essential. Sign up and find a blood drive near you to get started and become a donor.

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