- You are required to present your ID card upon arrival.
- You fill in a questionnaire and may be privately interrogated by a nurse.
- Your hemoglobin level is checked to ensure you are not anemic.
- Your temperature, blood pressure and pulse should be checked as well.
The nurse then identifies your “good veins”, and uses a sterile syringe and bag to proceed with your blood donation.
A total of around 450mL is withdrawn in 15 to 20 minutes, which is around 10% of your total body weight. This quantity is quickly replenished with correct hydration.
After donating blood:
- Have a short rest. Do not get up quickly.
- Have something to drink/eat (a juice or chocolate bar offered by the blood bank).
- Compress firmly the needle prick site to avoid the formation of a local hematoma.
- Make sure to get back your ID card.
- Have a good hydration for the upcoming 24h (water and juice are recommended).
- Have a good meal.
- Do not lift heavy weight or exercise during the day.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Observe the needle prick site for any bruises.
At any point during the process, in some rare cases, you might experience lightheadedness, fainting, numbness in your extremities and around your mouth or feel cold. Make sure to highlight that to friends or the medical staff at the blood bank/drive, to assist you accordingly.
These symptoms usually appear in those who smoke, drink alcohol or exercise before showing up to donate blood or platelets. They are more likely to be observed in skinny people whose weight on the limit. They can be easily overcome by following the instructions given above.
What about bruising?
Bruising is caused by bleeding under the skin. In this case, it is staff-related, linked to the needle prick, with veins being sometimes difficult to find.
You will notice a change in color around the concerned area, which starts right after you finish your blood donation. The skin will turn blue first, then green, then yellow before it goes back to its original color.
If you experience bruising, do not panic or rush to the hospital. Normally, the bleeding will resolve spontaneously and progressively in the upcoming days. In case you take aspirin, or any anti-coagulant or anti-platelet drug, make sure to contact your physician and inform him about it.
Symptoms that should alert you however include numbness in the arm, loss of sensation or temperature, and paralysis. In these cases, please head to the nearest medical facility to be assessed and taken care of as quickly as possible.
Why do bruising happen?
When the needle is taken out of the arm bleeding will continue until the small hole in the vein closes up. The way to prevent this is to apply pressure to the arm over the site where the needle was inserted. This must continue until all signs of bleeding have stopped. Failure to maintain this pressure is the most common cause of bruising.
Secondly, when the donation needle is put into the arm, damage to the opposite wall of the vein may occur, causing a small hole through which blood can escape. This is not always seen during the donation but may become apparent afterwards.
Thirdly there are tiny fragile blood vessels running just under the skin, as well as the larger veins from which a blood donation is obtained. When the donation needle is inserted into the arm, one of these small vessels may be damaged and bleeding occurs. It is impossible to predict this, as such vessels are not usually visible.
What can be done to prevent bruising?
The single most important way of preventing a bruise is to apply pressure to the place where the needle was, until the bleeding has stopped. A plaster will be applied to the area to keep it clean. It should be kept on for a minimum of 6 hours.
Additionally, if you are wearing a tight sleeve, we may ask you to remove that article of clothing. A tight sleeve can act as tourniquet and cause congestion in the vein increasing the chance of bruising.
What can you do after bruising?
Bruising may be painful and you should avoid heavy lifting as this could aggravate the pain in the arm. However, gentle movement may be beneficial.
Applying something cool to the area can help to relieve any pain or discomfort. A cold cloth or flannel is ideal. If you require more pain relief, we recommend taking paracetamol (according to the manufacturers instructions).