Health Reviews

Your body is fully prepared to donate blood

Tue Apr 27 2021     ~4 min read

By Madison, Marina and Damu Sasa.

 There are many misbeliefs surrounding blood donation and thus preventing blood donation amongst prospective donors in Africa. One such misconception is that donating blood can make a person weak, unhealthy, ill, or lead to death.

This misconception can be better dismissed by understanding the science behind how blood regenerates after a blood donation exercise.

Typically, most blood donation centers collect whole blood during donation. Whole blood is composed of 4 main components: red blood cells, plasma, white blood cells, and platelets.

Every day, the body eliminates just under 1% of old red blood cells. Accordingly, the body is constantly undergoing a process called hemopoiesis, to regenerate the eliminated elements of blood.

Therefore, after donating, the red blood cells will be regenerated in the donor’s body within two weeks.

With regard to blood plasma, the body will automatically replace the plasma portion of the donated blood within 24 – 48hrs. This is in part because plasma is composed of water, proteins and other solutes.

This is why hydration is important in caring for oneself before and after a blood donation exercise.

Therefore, the misconception that blood donation makes a person weak, unhealthy, ill, or may lead to death is false. This is because the human body has built-in mechanisms for replacing and regenerating donated blood.

Also, while an individual may experience symptoms of fatigue, lightheadedness, nausea, or dizziness after donation, these symptoms are only temporary, and subside within 24 hours or sooner.

This is especially when the individuals take extra care of themselves following donation. The following self-care advise can help to deal with and even prevent some of the symptoms:

How to prepare for a blood donation:

  1. Eat a good meal at least 3hrs before a donation;
  2. Hydrate;
  3. Try to get a good night’s rest;
  4. Do not consume alcohol for 48hrs prior to donation;
  5. Avoid smoking the day before a donation;

What to do after a blood donation exercise:

  1. Keep the bandage on for several hours;
  2. Avoid heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for the rest of the day;
  3. If the site/wound starts to bleed again, raise your arm and apply pressure for 5-10min, or until bleeding stops;
  4. Eat healthy and nutritious meals and avoid alcohol for the rest of the day;
  5. If you experience dizziness or light-headedness, sit down and rest until you feel better.

The reality is that blood donation is a healthy process. Further, when you donate blood, you help save lives of patients who need blood. In some cases, you actually help save your own life.

This is because you have to go through a simple physical examination before every donation. This examination can be beneficial for you as it can reveal a hidden condition that you may not be aware of.

For example, some people do discover that they have high hemoglobin levels when they go for blood donation. This knowledge helps early pursuit of treatment.

Therefore, get out and donate blood today. Please remember to schedule your blood donation appointment to avoid overcrowding at the donation centre, in line with social distancing requirements.

- Madison Amyotte, BScN, RN and Marina Francis, BScN, RN, are Pediatric Operating Room Nurses at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Canada.
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