Here's What To Do After You Give Blood

Blood is the most generous gift a person can give another human. A human being's life relies on blood, without which the body's organs cannot get the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive and fight infection. When your body has lost over 40% of blood volume, your heart can't pump blood properly already, your organs will start shutting down, and you're likely to pass out or die at this stage, per a study in Critical Care. Injuries, surgeries, gastrointestinal bleeding, and blood vessel rupture can trigger a sudden loss of blood. Hospitals need a reliable supply of the right blood types for blood transfusions to save patients.

According to the American Red Cross, approximately 29,000 units of blood cells are needed every day in the U.S., with someone needing blood or platelets every two seconds. When you donate blood, you save lives. To donate whole blood to a blood bank, you need to meet specific requirements for donors, such as you must be in good health, at least 17 years old (in most states), and weighing at least 110 pounds. Typically, about one pint of blood is collected for a whole blood donation. The process is painless and fast, but you will experience some short-lived side effects after that, such as fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. Here are some tips on what to do after giving blood that will help you prepare for a blood draw better and feel more confident arriving at a blood drive.

Replenish your body with post-donation refreshments

After you give blood, all the hydration in your body will go towards replacing and restoring what the phlebotomist drew out, so you'll feel dehydrated, light-headed, and fatigued. When you keep yourself hydrated and your blood sugar stabilized, your blood volume recovers faster. Therefore, help yourself to some refreshments provided by the blood donation center afterward the moment your blood draw is completed.

"Blood contains many substances, including red blood cells full of iron, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets, plus water and various nutrients and minerals, which is why it's critical that donors replenish their bodies with post-donation snacks and fluids," Patty Corvaia from American Red Cross Blood Services told PopSugar. After your donation, drink at least an extra four glasses — equivalent to 32 ounces of water or juice — to compensate for the loss of fluids. Within the first 24 hours of your blood donation, steer clear of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages and smoking, which can worsen your dehydration and raise the risk of fainting, South Louisiana Medical Associates warns. If you feel tired, you can sit or lie down with your feet up for about 30 minutes until you feel better.

Avoid strenuous activities after blood donation

According to Canadian Blood Services, it's a good idea to avoid strenuous exercise or manual labor — from playing sports, to driving a bus, to operating heavy equipment — for six to eight afters after donating. Exerting yourself shortly after a blood donation can lead to further dehydration and a decline in blood pressure, making you lightheaded and unsteady and increasing the risk of fainting. Health Sciences Authority advises against driving within six hours after giving blood. If you really have to drive, make sure you do so only after recharging your body on snacks and drinks and having some rest. Do not try to hit the road until you feel completely well. 

It's also recommended that you don't go back to work on the same day of your donation as your body needs at least 24 hours to fully recover after a blood draw. Pushing through the symptoms might leave you feeling worse. It's better to donate blood on your off day when you have plenty of time to rest. If you're a professional athlete, keep in mind that donating blood significantly affects your athletic performance and you might not be able to perform at your maximum capacity a few days after donation. According to a study in The Journal of AABB, a standard whole blood donation — where a donor gives about 500 milliliters of blood — leads to a minor reduction in Hb levels, VO2max, and maximal exercise capacity in the first two days after the blood donation.

Keep your bandage on and dry for four hours

After a blood donation, keep your bandage strip in place for at least four hours, according to Bloodworks Northwest. In case of new bleeding, apply pressure to the site for two to five minutes or hold your arm straight up for 10 minutes and replace the bandage with a new one for another four hours. After you remove the bandage from your arm, gently clean the puncture site using mild soap and water. According to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, try to avoid hot showers or hot baths after a blood donation. Heat causes your body to respond by dilating blood vessels, which will lower blood pressure. This could lead to increased dizziness and fainting.

Most of the side effects common to a blood draw usually go away in one day. However, contact your blood donation center or seek medical care if they persist or worsen. Complications are rare but they do happen. For instance, a study in the journal Annals of Neurology reveals that 0.03% of blood donors have convulsive syncope, and it's more common among men. You might also experience double or blurry vision as well as repeated vomiting after a donation.

Eat iron-rich foods to compensate for blood loss

To speed up recovery after a blood donation, noshing on iron-rich food is a good start. Iron is vital to the formation of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells — the most common type of blood cell that's responsible for carrying oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the body. If your body does not have enough iron, you may develop iron deficiency anemia, which leads to fewer red blood cells being produced by your body. Your lungs will also make less oxygen available for the body, making you feel fatigued and unsteady most of the time, according to OneBlood.

According to the NHS, foods that make great sources of iron include fish, poultry, lean meat, black beans, spinach, asparagus, and eggs. On a daily basis, men over the age of 18 need 8.7 milligrams of iron; women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 14.8 milligrams; and women over the age of 50 need 8.7 milligrams. A diverse and balanced diet should suffice to give you all the iron you need. You can take iron supplements; but, to be on the safe side, consult your healthcare professional beforehand and consume in moderation.