Family Guide for Giving Blood
Giving blood is an activity you and your family can participate in together to help your community and those in need. Oftentimes people will donate blood in response to a crisis, but America’s Blood Centers says blood is needed at all times of the year. In fact, the blood used in an emergency generally comes from donations made prior to the disaster, explains the federation.
If you and others in your family are interested in donating blood, there are a few things to consider first. Before scheduling your appointment or visiting a blood drive, see if you are eligible to donate.
Blood Donation Restrictions and Requirements
Blood donation eligibility is based on a number of factors. According to the American Red Cross, you can donate blood only once every 56 days. You must also be in good health, weigh at least 110 pounds and be 17 or older. In some states, 16-year-olds can donate with a parent’s written consent, says the organization.
Good health is described by the Red Cross as feeling well (especially the day of the donation) and having the ability to do normal daily activities. If you are feeling ill, the Red Cross says you can donate 24 hours after all symptoms have cleared.
If you fit these basic blood donation requirements, next find out if any restrictions apply to you. The Red Cross lists the following as common reasons you may not be able to give blood:
- You are currently taking antibiotics to treat an infection
- Your blood does not clot normally or you’re taking blood thinners
- You have a skin disease or rash over the vein from which blood will be drawn
- You’re pregnant
- You got a tattoo in the last 12 months from a facility that is not state-regulated
- You have traveled outside the United States and Canada within the last three years
If you have any other concerns regarding your blood donation eligibility, it doesn’t hurt to speak with your doctor before visiting a donation center.
How to Prepare for Donation
Once you’ve determined you are able to give blood, there are a few things you should do to prepare. Before donating, the Red Cross recommends getting a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy, low-fat meal, and drinking 16 extra ounces of water. The Red Cross also adds that you need to bring two forms of identification, including a donor card, if you have one.
When you get to the donation site, the American Cancer Society says the FDA requires that staff at the center take certain steps before blood is drawn. These include:
- Taking your temperature
- Measuring your blood pressure
- Checking your heart rate
- Giving you a health and travel questionnaire
- Testing your blood
What to Do After Donation
The Red Cross recommends taking a few post-procedure actions:
- Have a snack and drink immediately after giving blood.
- Sit or lie down any time you feel dizzy or lightheaded after donating.
- Don’t drink alcoholic beverages for 24 hours.
- Drink at least 32 ounces of water or non-alcoholic beverages in the following 24 hours.
- Avoid excessive activity and heavy lifting until the next day.
Donating blood can be a great way to help your community, but it’s important to do it safely. If you and the members of your family are eligible, find out if there’s a local blood drive near you or visit the Red Cross website for blood services centers in your area.