What to Do Before, During, and After Donating Blood

June 14th is world blood donor day, and with donation day right around the corner, you may be excited to participate. 

Although exciting, donating blood can make you feel a bit anxious. Luckily, donating blood is not nearly as scary or complicated as it sounds. 

Eating Iron-rich foods, drinking plenty of water, and relaxing are a few simple tips for a successful donation. Keep reading for more helpful information on what to do before, during, and after donating blood.

Before Donation

Prior to donating, you can do a few things to ensure your blood draw is safe, effortless, and overall successful. 


In advance of preparing for donation, pre-qualify yourself by ensuring you meet the following criteria.

  • You are generally healthy and feeling well.
  • You are between the ages of 18 and 65.
  • You do not have any infections.
  • You have not received a vaccination within two weeks.
  • You meet weight requirements
    • Females must weigh at least 110 pounds
    • Males must weigh at least 121 pounds.

Make an Appointment

Once you have determined your qualification, you can then schedule an appointment.

Many donation centers accept walk-ins; however, an appointment will get you in and out faster. 

Eat Healthily and Hydrate

What you eat before donating blood can either help or hinder your experience.

It is best to eat foods high in iron and vitamin C, avoid fatty foods and stay hydrated.

Blood consists of approximately %35 Iron and %50 water; therefore, donating could result in anemia or dehydration if the body does not have sufficient iron and water. 

Iron-rich foods will restore iron loss, and vitamin C helps the body absorb the iron. Additionally, avoid fatty foods because they have high lipid content, making testing the blood for infection difficult.

Here, you can find more information on the role of nutrition in blood donation.

Avoid Strenuous Activity

Light exercises like walking or stretching are generally ok before donating blood. However, strenuous activities like lifting weights should be avoided for 24 hours before donating. 

After physical activity, the body works hard to recover and replenish any lost fluids, vitamins, and minerals.

Since blood donation can also be taxing on the body, you will want to be well-rested and avoid activities that cause additional strain or healing; otherwise, dizziness, fainting, or adverse reactions may occur. 

Avoid Pills, Alcohol, and Tobacco

Cigarettes, alcohol, and some medications can stay in your bloodstream for hours. Therefore, any trace amounts of these substances can be passed onto the individual receiving your donation once blood is given. 

Donors should abstain from using these substances for at least 12 hours before donating blood. 

Recreational drug users will be disqualified from donation with the exclusion of marijuana. For more information on donating as a cannabis user, here is a more in-depth article from Veriheal.

During Donation

When donation day arrives, you may feel nervous or uncertain about your first visit. 

Fortunately, the donation process is quite simple, and you can change your mind at any time. 


Upon entering the donation center, you will be greeted and asked to sign in. Then, depending on the location, the receptionist may guide you to a self-check-in kiosk or have you fill out paperwork. 

During check-in, you will be asked for identification cards and proof of residency documentation. 

Complete a Health Screening

A health screening is required before every donation; however, your first visit will include a physical performed by a medical professional. 

The health screening at subsequent visits will more than likely be a questionnaire that asks how you are feeling physically and mentally.

If you have provided your documentation, been deemed healthy, and are approved to participate, you will be escorted to a private area to start the physical donation.

A phlebotomist will make sure you are comfortable and begin drawing blood intravenously.


The extraction may take up to 60 minutes for whole blood donation, and plasma donation may take up to 120 minutes. 

Since donation can be lengthy, it is best to try to relax and enjoy the quiet. 

Most donors spend this time reading a book, doing a crossword puzzle, watching videos, or surfing the web. 

If you change your mind, feel uneasy or ill, you can let a phlebotomist know, and they will stop the donation immediately. 

After Donation

The general suggestions for post-donation care are similar to the preparation accompanied by a few additions. 

  • Have a healthy snack rich in iron and vitamin C
  • Hydrate
  • Avoid alcohol for 24 hours
  • Don’t overexert yourself
  • Avoid smoking for at least two hours
  • Leave the bandage on for four hours, then wash with soap and water
  • Be proud of your contribution

Donating blood for the first time can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience. However, with the correct preparation, execution, and aftercare, your donation will leave you feeling great and proud of your life-saving donation.

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