woman donating bloodDonating blood is a simple way to give a powerful gift. According to the American Red Cross, patients need around 36,000 units of red blood cells, 7,000 units of platelets, and 10,000 units of plasma every single day in the U.S.

The only way patients can get the treatment they need is if altruistic people donate blood on a regular basis. Even though the desire to help is noble and respectable, you should also care for yourself during the process. Here are a few strategies for ensuring that your body responds to your donations in the most ideal way.

Get a Full Night’s Sleep

Blood donation organizations suggest that you get a full eight hours of sleep the night before donating blood. This step may be easy to overlook or trivialize but if you are severely sleep-deprived when you go into your appointment, you could exacerbate feelings of lightheadedness, dizziness, and general malaise after your donation. You may even faint or get into an auto accident.

This precaution may seem unnecessary, but the potential risks are real.

Eat Well

The morning before your appointment, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast so your body has the nutrients it needs to recover from blood donation. Furthermore, when you have a full stomach, your blood pressure remains more stable and you won’t be as light-headed afterward.

The best meal is one low in fat and high in irons, eaten at minimum two hours before you show up for your appointment. Some great low-fat food ideas include whole grains, low-fat milk, nonfat yogurt, fruits and veggies, and cereals. Some iron-rich options include spinach, bananas, breads, red meat, eggs, and apple juice.

Stay Hydrated

You may be tempted to indulge in a caffeinated drink the morning of your appointment but reach for the water instead. You will lose approximately two cups of fluid when you donate so you want to be sure your body has the necessary ingredients to produce new blood cells and plasma. It’s a great idea to drink 12 oz. of water a half-hour before you give blood, and another 32 oz. afterward to kick-start your system.

Keep in mind that although other beverages do contain water, your body will actually need to use water in order to break down the sugars and other ingredients in them. This means that even if you drink 16 oz. of juice, you aren’t getting an equivalent 16 oz. of water into your system after your body breaks it down. Increase your fluid intake accordingly.

Avoid Physical Activity

Although you may be a gym-rat or athlete, you would be best served by giving yourself at minimum five hours, and ideally 12 hours, after your donation before resuming intense physical activity. Similar to the case with sleep deprivation, exercising too soon after donating can cause you to pass out or even experience excessive bleeding from the needle’s entry point. If you lift weights, a sudden drop in blood pressure or fainting could result in serious injury.

Know Which Medications Could Impact Your Donation

Perhaps, surprisingly, the majority of medications will not prevent you from donating blood, including meds for high blood pressure, birth control pills, and diet pills.

However, if you are donating plasma, you must stop taking these medications and wait the specified time before donating:
• NSAIDs (12 hours)
• Aspirin (48 hours)
• Ticlid (14 days)
• Plavix (14 days)

You are also not eligible to donate blood if you have taken blood thinners, Accutane, Proscar, or Propecia within the last four weeks, Avodart within the last six months, Hepatitis B Immune Goblin within the last 12 months, Soriatane within the last three years, or have ever used bovine insulin, factor concentrates, Human Pituitary-Derived Growth Hormone, Tegison or anabolic steroids (without a prescription). Ask your doctor if your particular medications will impact your ability to safely donate.

Give Safely

Donating blood is an incredibly selfless act that benefits innumerable people every single day. Without blood donations, much of our medical emergencies would end with incredibly bleak results. If you are going to give blood, though, do yourself a favor as well and understand how the process will impact your body, as well as the best ways to set your body up for a quick rebound. Giving doesn’t have to be quite so draining. Contact us for more information. 

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