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Giving blood FAQs

Why give blood?

Blood plays a vital role in saving lives. People donate their blood to help others. It can be used to treat people with conditions like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis and also after accidents, surgery and for premature babies.

A blood donation can be used as whole blood or be broken down into the components - platelets, white cells, red cells and plasma. These can be used in different ways to help people with different needs.

What is involved in giving blood?

Donating blood is simple. The whole experience takes about an hour. Have something to eat and drink beforehand. Across the UK there are many blood donation clinics or some workplaces organise special days to give blood.

When you arrive, you’ll be asked to read a few leaflets and fill in a donor health check questionnaire and may have a confidential chat with a nurse to talk about your health in general.

A tiny drop of blood is taken from your fingertip to check on your levels of haemoglobin and to make sure giving blood won’t make you anaemic (short of iron).

Then it’s all systems go, as long as you are fit and well, you will be asked to give your donation.

A cuff will be put around your arm to find a vein, a sterile needle will be put into your arm and then the blood will flow through a tube into a plastic bag.

The nurse will take about 470 ml of blood (less than a pint), which is quickly replaced by your body. As well as your donation, a sample of blood will be taken to be tested in the lab as well.

Once you have given blood, you should have a short rest and you will be given a drink and biscuits.

Afterwards it’s recommended you drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol and strenuous activity for about eight hours.

Who can give blood?

Most people can give blood. If you are in good health, aged between 17 and 65 (if it’s your first time) and weigh at least 7st 12lbs (50kgs) you can donate.

You can give blood once every 16 weeks.

Who can’t give blood?

The vast majority of people can give blood but there are quite a few reasons why you may not be able to. They fall into two main areas: it would be bad for your health or your donation could harm the patient by passing on an infection.

Your health:

  • If you are pregnant or have been pregnant within the last nine months
  • If you have certain medical conditions or are taking certain types of medication
  • If you have had certain types of surgery in the past 12 months

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