Blood helps keep the body healthy. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body, and takes carbon dioxide and other waste products to the lungs, kidneys, and liver for disposal. It fights infections and helps heal wounds. It is needed to sustain the lives of people whose blood functions have been impaired by injury or illness.
The primary components of whole blood are red blood cells, platelets, plasma and white cells. Red cells carry oxygen to tissues. Platelets help prevent bleeding. Plasma, the liquid portion of blood, carries a variety of proteins, some of which are essential in helping to clot. White blood cells help to fight infections.
Each donated unit of whole blood can be separated into multiple components, and each component can be transfused to different individuals based on their needs.
Each donation can be used to save as many as three lives.
Most healthy adults can give blood. You meet the basic eligibility requirements if you:
- are at least 17 years old
- weigh at least 110 pounds
- are in good health on the day of donation
- have no history of exposure to hepatitis or AIDS
Certain medications, health problems or conditions may disqualify you from donating blood. For example, if you are pregnant, or have a fever when you come in to donate, or have angina, you cannot donate blood.
Prior to donating, qualified staff will ask you to answer a series of questions about travel and health. Your responses help determine if there is any reason that might disqualify you from donating, such as travel to some countries or certain medical conditions. They will also take your temperature and pulse, and take a drop of blood from your finger to determine the hematocrit level in your blood.
Giving blood takes four steps
- Medical history
- Quick mini-physical (temperature, blood pressure, pulse, hematocrit level)
- Blood donation
Confidential Health History
To begin, you complete a confidential form with your name, address and general information about your health history.
A Red Cross staff person will take a drop of blood from a finger to ensure your hematocrit levels are safe to donate blood, and will check your blood pressure, pulse and temperature.
Blood is then collected using a sterile, single-use needle. As your donation begins, you will feel a slight pinch. In about 10 minutes, you will have completed your blood donation. Slightly less than a pint of blood is taken (most adults have 10 to 12 pints of blood).
Lastly, you will be asked to relax while you enjoy refreshments. This will help your body adjust to the slight decrease in fluid volume (your body replaces that fluid within 24 hours). You can then leave, knowing that you may have just helped to save several lives by donating blood.
There are several things you can do to ensure a good donation experience. You’ll want a good night’s sleep the night before donation. In addition, it is recommended that you have a good breakfast or lunch with plenty of liquids like milk, juice or soda ahead of time.
After Your Donation
In addition, donors are encouraged to do the following:
- Go about your normal daily activities, avoiding any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise.
- Drink an extra four glasses (eight ounces each) of non-alcoholic liquids.
- Keep your bandage on and dry for the next five hours.
- Post-donation problems are unusual, but they can occur:
- If the needle site starts to bleed, raise your arm straight up and press on the site until the bleeding stops.
- If you get dizzy, lay down and raise your feet. Because you could experience dizziness or loss of strength, use caution if you plan to do anything that could put you or others at risk of harm. For any hazardous occupation or hobby, follow applicable safety recommendations regarding your return to these activities following a blood donation.
- If you get a bruise, apply ice to the area intermittently for 10-15 minutes during the first 24 hours. Thereafter, apply intermittent warm moist heat for 10-15 minutes to the area, and a rainbow of colors may occur for about 10 days.
- If you get bruising larger than a 2-3 inch diameter, redness, swelling, or pain where the needle was, or tingling in your fingers or arm, contact the American Red Cross at the telephone number listed below.
Whole blood donors are eligible to donate blood every 56 days (8 weeks).
Double Red Cell donors are eligible to donate every 112 days (16 weeks).
Apheresis donors can give platelets every two weeks and plasma every 28 days. Whole blood donors who might choose to also make Apheresis donations can give platelets three days after making a whole blood donation.
If you donate blood on campus, you will have the option of being a Whole Blood donor or a Double Red Cell donor.
Every type of blood is needed daily to meet patient needs. If you have a common blood type, there are many patients who need it, so it is in high demand. If you have a less common blood type, there are fewer donors available to give it, so it is in short supply.