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What to Expect When Donating
Poster: Red Blood Needed
An old Red Cross poster.
Every two seconds someone needs blood. Most of us only have to look as far as our circle of friends and neighbors to find someone whose life was touched by the generous gift of a volunteer blood donor. Donating blood for the first time, though, can be intimidating. What is the process? What should you expect? How will you feel afterward?

Your body will replace the lost fluids within 24 hours. When you arrive at the blood center, you will fill out a form answering a series of questions designed to determine whether it is safe for you to donate, and for someone to receive your blood. Questions relate to health issues and behavioral risks, including intravenous drug use. We understand that some of these questions may be of a sensitive nature, so you will meet privately with a trained staff member to review these questions and discuss any concerns you may have. We treat this information in a highly confidential manner.

You also will be given a "mini-physical." A trained health historian will check your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and test your red cell count by taking a small sample of blood from your finger.

Person giving blood
A blood donation in progress.
After you have completed the health history, you will move on to the actual donation. During your whole blood donation, you'll give about one pint of blood. Your body will replace the lost fluids within 24 hours. You'll feel just a slight pinch when the needle is inserted. A collections staff member will stay with you during the entire donation process. Usually the needle is in your arm only 8 to 10 minutes. All of the needles and supplies are used only once and then discarded. It is not possible to contract HIV or any other disease through donating blood.

Most people experience no side effects from donation, and aside from avoiding strenuous exercise and heavy lifting, you can go about your normal routine once you leave.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids before and after donating blood. It's also important to remember to eat foods high in iron content between donations. You will be eligible to donate whole blood again in 56 days. The entire process takes about an hour, and each donation has the potential to save three lives. Can you think of a better way to spend an hour?

Despite the fact that giving blood is easy, safe, and takes less than one hour, only five percent of eligible Americans donate blood. To donate blood, one must be healthy, at least 17 years old, and weigh 110 pounds or more.

On behalf of the lives you'll help save, thank you. To schedule a blood donation appointment, call the Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or donate to an independent blood center by calling 1-888-BLOOD-88.

Together, we can save a life.

Dr. Jerry Squires, MD, PhD
American Red Cross
Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer

Photo: "Red Blood Needed for Red Blooded Americans" poster, courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.

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