Many people hesitate to become first-time donors because they feel uncomfortable with the process. The most important thing to understand is that the process is completely safe. It has many benefits and no permanent side effects.
Before making an appointment at your local blood bank, you might want to find out whether you are eligible to donate blood. The staff will also inform you on how often you can donate blood. These considerations may help you determine your eligibility:
- You are at least 17 years of age.
- You weigh 110 pounds (50 kilograms) or more.
- You are healthy.
For pregnant women willing to donate blood, it’s advisable to wait six weeks after giving birth. If you take any medication, check with staff in your local donor center about which medications are allowed. Low blood iron and problems with blood pressure may postpone your intention to give blood.
Your diet is a vital point in preparation and may determine how often you can donate blood. It can also help you regenerate blood faster. Several weeks before the procedure, start eating high-quality meals. Include a lot of iron-rich foods in your diet to compensate for the blood loss during donation. Iron-rich food includes:
- Red meat
- Pumpkin seeds
- Green vegetables
Shortly before your appointment, you may also want to ensure that you are ready to give blood. You may apply the following tips:
- Have a good night’s sleep.
- Eat healthy and balanced meals.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Acknowledge your fears about the procedure and try minimizing them.
- If you donate platelets, stop taking aspirin at least two days before giving blood.
If you donate blood often, you are most likely familiar with what you can or can’t drink or eat before the procedure. For example:
- Eat a highly nutritious meal.
- Drink at least 16 ounces of water.
- Pay attention to your body. If you are coughing, have a fever, feel tired, or experience other flu symptoms, inform the staff. It might be better to postpone donation for a few days.
- Replace junk food such as hamburgers, french fries, and pizza with something healthy and nutritious. Unhealthy fats may decrease the quality of your blood.
- Abstain from drinking alcohol or coffee before the procedure.
The procedure for giving blood depends on the type of donation.
Whole blood donation
You will give a pint of blood as a donation and all blood components will be used for various purposes. This is the most common type of blood donation.
Platelet, plasma, and double red cell donation
These three types of donation are performed individually by using an apheresis machine to extract the selected components from your blood. The rest of the blood will be returned through a vein. You may choose what components you want to donate.
Knowing that you can save three lives with just one donation is one benefit of donating blood — helping people may make you feel good and more connected. Other common benefits of helping people include:
- You may gain more sense of belonging. This crucial feeling decreases the chances of depression.
- You may feel a strong sense of purpose. Numerous medical studies have shown the powerful benefits of a sense of purpose on heart health.
- You may experience more positive emotions and more optimism.
- You will feel more at ease and peaceful.
Besides mental and emotional benefits, you may also benefit from giving blood on a physical level. When you donate blood, the following benefits may appear:
- Blood donation decreases the chances of a heart attack. There is almost a 90 percent lower chance of having a heart attack if you are a regular donor.
- You may also reduce the probability of getting cancers, especially colon, lung, stomach, liver, and throat cancer.
- Because of the short physical checkup before donation, you will have a chance to discover a possible underlying health condition. This knowledge will, in turn, help you treat the illness more quickly.
The answer to the question how often can you donate blood depends on the type of donation. If you donate whole blood, you may need to wait about 8 weeks to repeat the process.
Platelet donation requires seven days between donations. You can donate platelets up to 24 times a year. When you give plasma, you may repeat the process every 28 days. For double red cell donation, it is advisable to wait for 24 weeks before doing so again.
Waiting for the recommended period gives your body a chance to recover. During this time, your body will completely replace your blood cells, platelets, or plasma.
Not only will the necessary waiting time keep you safe, but also your blood will be more useful for potential recipients the next time you donate.
If you’ve donated blood before, you know that the whole blood donation process takes only 8–10 minutes. Donating platelets may take up to two hours on an apheresis machine.
To relieve symptoms after a blood draw, you may want to allow yourself 10–15 minutes to sit down, eat a snack, and sip a refreshing drink. If you feel nauseous or dizzy, you may feel better if you lay down for a few minutes until the feeling disappears.
No matter how often you donate blood, this valuable act provides numerous benefits. Moreover, the procedure is simple, quick, and has no long-term side effects. If you’ve ever wondered how to improve your life and the lives of other people, giving blood is a great way to do exactly that. Follow our preparation tips to have a better donation experience.