One thing that stops some people from being willing to give blood is fear. Today, donating blood is very safe. Sterile, disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there is no risk of getting a bloodborne infection by donating blood. To better understand the donation process and allay those fears, let’s address the minimal risks involved. 

Frequent Concerns

Don’t I need all of my blood?

Most healthy adults can donate a pint, or about half a liter, safely without health risks. Within a few days of the blood donation, your body replaces the lost fluids, and then after two weeks a healthy individual can replace the lost red blood cells. 

I’ve heard that people can pass out. 

While this definitely can happen to certain individuals (rarely), there are several actions you can take before you donate blood to make sure your body is ready! 

  • Get plenty of sleep the night before.
  • Eat a healthy meal before the donation, avoiding fatty and “junk” foods.
  • Drink plenty of water before the donation
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing with sleeves that can be rolled up. 

I take medication, so I don’t think I can donate.

  • Many medications won’t affect your donation at all, so this isn’t necessarily a barrier. 
  • Bring an accurate list of your medications with you to make sure none of them will prevent you from donating. 

I am afraid of getting AIDS/HIV.

Decades ago when the AIDS epidemic began, the virus was transmitted from donors to recipients. This gave donating blood a bit of a stigma, which is untrue. Donating blood was never an issue for contracting diseases, and testing processes have made the screening much more accurate for recipient safety than ever before. 

I am diabetic, so I can’t donate. 

Most diabetics are ok to donate blood. Remember to hydrate well, eat healthily prior to your donation, and bring a list of medications. 

COVID-19 Concerns

Although the virus that causes COVID-19 hasn’t been shown to be transmitted through blood transfusions, the FDA recommends waiting to donate blood for at least 10 days after your COVID symptoms have gone away. 

If you have recently had a mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, you can donate blood without a waiting period. 

Since the COVID-19 virus is airborne, if there are infections in your area you may be asked to wear a mask and the donation center may adhere to social distancing protocols. 

With the proper preparation and precautions before donating blood, risks are extremely minimal. Blood donation centers also ask you to wait a few minutes after your donation to eat a snack or drink some juice. This is to make sure you are not light-headed and that you are feeling ok. The whole process should take an hour from registration to cookies!

Karen Stockdale, RN, has more than 20 years experience in healthcare. She is also a medical and technical writer and editor.