What you should do before and after donating blood

On World Blood Donor Day, 2011, read on to know the stepwise procedure of blood donation and what you should do before and after donating blood

By Dr Parul R Sheth

Blood donation is a noble cause; it can save lives. The theme for World Blood Donor Day 2011 is, “More blood. More life.” The theme reinforces an urgent need for more and more people across the world to donate blood regularly and become life-savers.

“I am donating blood for the sixth time and I am feeling so good about it!” expresses Ronit, a medical student at the city college. “The first time I donated blood, I was very nervous. I was worried about the needle prick and thought it would be a painful procedure and that I might faint. But nothing happened,” says Ronit.

Blood donation, is indeed a pain free procedure and think about it, you are saving a life. It is a simple and a safe process. You can donate blood if you are between 18-60 years of age. It takes about 10-12 minutes for the blood donation process.

A step-wise knowhow about the blood donation process (With inputs from The Blood Bank India)

  1. You walk into a reputed and safe blood donation centre or a mobile camp organised by a reputed institution.
  2. A few questions are asked to determine your health status (general questions on health, donation history etc). Usually you are asked to fill out a short form.
  3. A quick physical check is done - temperature, blood pressure, pulse and haemoglobin content in blood to ensure you are a healthy donor.
  4. If found fit to donate, then you are asked to lie down. Your arm is thoroughly cleaned. Using sterile equipments blood is collected in a special plastic bag. Approximately 350 ml of blood is collected in one donation. Those who weigh more than 60 kg can donate 450 ml of blood.
  5. You need to rest and relax for a few minutes with a light snack and something refreshing to drink.
  6. Blood is separated into components within eight hours of donation and is then taken to the laboratory for testing.
  7. Once found safe, it is kept in special storage and released when required.
  8. The blood is now ready to be taken to the hospital for use

Before and after blood donation
Dr Ajit Chitre, medical director, Pooja Blood Bank Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, says, “Before blood donation you should be comfortably healthy, two hours after meals, with a gap of about one hour after work-up.” According to Blood Bank India a healthy diet helps ensure a successful blood donation and also makes you feel better. The recommended foods to be eaten prior to your donation include low fat and iron-rich foods such as spinach, red meat, fish, poultry, beans, iron-fortified cereals and raisins etc.

Dr Chitre advises, “After blood donation do not use tobacco, do not drive for two hours. Do not remain thirsty or hungry; it is usual to feel thirsty – your body needs that lost fluid. And if you feel ‘faint’ lie horizontally; or sit down with your head between knees.” Your blood will be fully restored after 48 hours.

Pre-donation tips (With inputs from The American Red Cross Association)

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Drink around 500 ml of water and fluids before the donation
  • Eat a healthy meal
  • In case you are a platelet donor, your system should be free of aspirin for two days prior to donation
  • Wear clothing with sleeves that can be rolled above your elbow
  • Carry your donor card with you along with your ID proof
  • Point out if you have a preferred arm and good veins, which have been successfully used in the past to draw blood 

Post donation tips (With inputs from The American Red Cross Association)

  • Relax and enjoy refreshments
  • Drink plenty of fluids over the next 24 hours to replenish fluids lost during donation
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity or vigorous use of the arm for about five hours after donation
  • In rare cases when bleeding occurs after removing the bandage, apply pressure to the site and raise your arm for 3-5 minutes. If bleeding or bruising occurs under the skin, apply a cold pack to the area periodically during the first 24 hours
  • Enjoy the happy feeling of achievement and self-satisfaction of having saved as many as three lives
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