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Donating Blood? Here’s How to Prepare

For the past 50 years, the American Red Cross has joined forces with hospitals and blood banks across the country to replenish our nation’s crucial blood supply. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the need. But before you schedule that appointment, you should make some tweaks in your diet.

3 Reasons to Give

  • It helps save lives. The Red Cross estimates that every blood donation can save three lives. Giving blood remains safe. During the pandemic, donation centers are diligently following enhanced safety protocols. 

  • You’ll get information about your own health. In addition to checking your basic vitals before donating — such as blood pressure, temperature and blood count — your blood will be screened for infectious diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS. And although giving blood does not test for active COVID-19 infections, all samples are screened for the antibody, giving you added information to prevent catching or spreading COVID-19. 

  • It can help prevent heart attacks. Giving blood regularly stimulates the creation of healthy new blood cells, which are thinner, and lowers your risk of heart attacks or strokes caused by arterial blockages. 

Set Yourself Up for Success

Before donating blood, be sure your diet sets you up for success and restores your own body’s needs afterward.

  • Drink water. Because almost half of your donated blood is water, you’ll want to arrive fully hydrated to avoid blood pressure drops and dizziness. The Red Cross recommends that you increase your water intake by an additional 16 ounces above the daily recommended of 64 ounces. 

  • Eat iron-rich foods. To replace iron lost during a blood donation, eat well-rounded, iron-rich meals both before and after donating. This is especially important for frequent donors. Iron-rich sources include plant-based foods such as spinach, white beans, kidney beans and lentils; animal sources such as meat, seafood and eggs; and iron-fortified foods such as breakfast cereals or whole-grain breads. You can download a full list here.

  • Increase your vitamin C. To aid your body’s absorption of iron-rich foods, add vitamin C to your diet by eating fruits and leafy green vegetables, such as strawberries, tomatoes, spinach and Brussels sprouts. 

Are You Eligible to Donate?

Nearly 7 million Americans donate blood every year, but that’s only 3 percent of the country’s eligible population. With the rising needs from COVID-19 already straining our nation’s supply, more donors are needed. But are you eligible? Depending on what you are donating (whole blood, plasma, platelets), the requirements for age, weight and health can vary. Here are some criteria to consider:

  • Are you well? If dealing with any contagious illness, from a simple cold to something more serious, you will not be eligible to donate until your symptoms have passed. Certain medications also can disqualify you. Check with your donation location for a complete list.

  • When did you donate last? To sustain healthy iron levels, depending on what you are donating, you may need to wait a few days to six months before donating again. 

  • Are you old enough? For whole blood donations, you must be 16 or older and weigh at least 110 pounds.

Donating blood is simple, and it benefits both the donor and recipient. Learn more by contacting your local Red Cross or OneBlood Donation Center.


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