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Blood Donation Questions: Common FAQ’s

People have a lot of questions when it comes to donating blood. Understandably, people want to know about their own safety. And after learning about their opportunity to save lives, people want to know even more. Below we’ll look at some of the most common blood donation questions and answers, from donation requirements to exactly how much your individual donation can help.

How does blood donation work?

The blood donation process is fairly simple. First, you complete a short registration process, including a brief health evaluation. Next, you’ll have an area of your arm sterilized before your blood is drawn with a sterile needle that’s immediately discarded after your donation. Finally, the blood is screened for a variety of pathogens before being made available to those who need it.

How long does it take to donate blood?

You’ll need to show ID, answer a couple of questions, and answer a couple of questions about your health. There’s also a health check to ensure it’s safe for you to donate blood. This can take five or ten minutes. It takes about another ten to finish donating blood and are given a cotton swab or bandage. You’ll want to take another ten minutes to have a snack before going about your day. Altogether, the donation process is usually less than half an hour.

How much blood is taken during a donation?

Adults have between 8 to 12 pints of blood in their bodies. The amount of blood drawn during a blood donation is typically one pint. This is a perfectly safe amount for a healthy adult to lose, but it’s enough to warrant the donor needing to meet a few basic health requirements to donate blood.

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How long before donating blood again?

Guidelines from the Red Cross require that a prospective donor has not given blood within the past 56 days. This eight-week limit can vary slightly depending on your health, and you may have to wait longer after several consecutive visits.

How old do you need to be to donate blood?

Some states allow 16-year-old teenagers to donate blood with parental consent. Most states require the donor is at least 17 years old. There is occasionally an upper age limit as well.

Can seniors donate blood?

Medical research has shown even seniors in their 70’s are often able to safely donate blood. More than age limits, it is preexisting conditions and medications that may disqualify an elderly person from donating. With that said, there are also blood banks that turn away donors over the age of 65. This is especially true for first-time donors over the age of 60.

Can I exercise after donating blood?

You’ll want to wait at least one day before resuming any high-intensity exercises like jogging. High-intensity exercises after a blood donation can increase your risk of fainting. You should wait at least two weeks before undergoing any seriously challenging physical activity, like running a marathon.

Can you get sick from donating blood?

Every blood donation involves the use of disposable equipment, helping to guarantee safe sterilization practices are always followed. As long as the medical professional who is drawing your blood does not sneeze directly into your face, there is virtually zero risk of becoming sick from donating blood.

How long after surgery can you donate blood?

It’s not usually surgery, but the condition which made surgery necessary that requires consideration. It also depends on the procedure. If you’ve had dental surgery and don’t have an infection, you can donate blood immediately. You’ll want to wait about three days for oral surgery. But for bypass surgery or other heart problem, you may need to wait as long as six months.

How much iron do you lose when you donate blood?

The amount of iron lost when you donate blood varies slightly from person to person because it depends on your iron levels. But a person loses roughly 250mg of iron for each pint donated. It can take six to eight months to fully replace that iron. You can speed up the process with an iron-rich diet. Vitamin C can also help the body with iron absorption.

Can you donate blood if you’re anemic?

People with anemia have abnormally low hemoglobin, and your hemoglobin levels need to reach a certain standard to donate blood. Red Cross guidelines require at least 12.5g/dL for women to donate, while men need a slightly higher 13.0g/dL. People with mild anemia may be able to raise their hemoglobin count to acceptable levels with the right diet, but those with more severe anemia cannot donate.

Can people with diabetes donate blood?

People who have complications from diabetes, like kidney or blood vessel problems, are not eligible for donating blood. But if blood glucose levels are under control, and there are no disqualifying complications, then it is possible for people with diabetes to donate blood.

Can people with lupus donate blood?

Some blood banks are happy to accept donations from people with lupus, others will not. Those that allow donations require the disease to be inactive or in remission. You’ll also want to talk with your care provider to get their green light for donation.

Can you donate blood while on antibiotics?

If you’ve recently had an infection, you’ll want to wait at least two weeks before donating blood. You’ll also need to wait at least a week from the time you took your last tablet. This waiting time can help ensure the infection is truly gone.

Can I donate blood while on antidepressants?

Taking antidepressants does not usually disqualify a person from donating blood, provided that you’ve been on your medication for at least a month, and don’t have side effects. However, if you are severely depressed and your medication is not helping to improve your condition, you may not be permitted to donate blood.

Can I donate blood if I take beta-blockers?

If you’re taking beta-blockers to treat cardiovascular disease or thyroid disease, then you cannot donate blood. If they are used for hypertension that is being successfully controlled, then it’s generally possible to donate blood. This is often at the discretion of the person who does your health screening.

Which blood group can donate to all?

Most blood types can only donate to a few others. For example, B+ can give to AB+ and B+, and it can receive B+, B-, 0+, or 0-. The one blood group which can donate to all others is the final member of that list: O negative. Roughly seven out of a hundred people have O- blood.

How many lives do you save when you donate blood?

Different quantities of blood are required for treating different kinds of injuries. An accident involving serious trauma can take as much as 50 pints of blood for treatment. That means it can take 50 people to donate enough blood to save someone from a major accident!

However, it’s estimated that giving blood saves about 4.5 million American lives annually. And slightly fewer than 7 million Americans donate blood at least once each year. Mathematically speaking, any person who donates blood twice has essentially helped save a life by themselves.

Summary

People have an opportunity to make a big difference with blood donations. And as long as it won’t place the donor or the recipient in harm’s way, almost any healthy adult can donate blood, even seniors! Though it is a simple and safe process, there are always a few steps you can take to prepare to donate blood.

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