Top tips for giving blood

Jun 14, 2019Blog

Top tips for giving blood


It’s National Blood Week this week, is giving blood something that you’ve considered or done?

I have to admit I came slightly late to the donation game, having always been a bit squeamish about the process. I also found that blood donation was rather like child birth – everyone always wants to share their horror stories! But in the interest of balance, I thought it would be good to share my experiences and how to feel your best when you give blood.

What’s the process?

For straightforward donations, you’ll be sent a questionnaire to take with you – it’s much better if you can complete this before you go. Once you arrive you’ll be asked to drink a pint of water and wait a short time. You’re then called through into a booth where you’ll be taken through the questionnaire. If there are no issues, you’ll be given a finger prick test to ensure that you’re iron levels are adequate, then it’s back to the waiting area. When it’s your turn to donate, you’ll be taken to a reclining chair, your details will be checked again and you’ll be swabbed to ensure your arm is sterile. A needle will then in inserted and once everything is set up, you’ll be left whilst you give the donation (don’t worry, there are lots of people around you have any problems!). During the donation, you’ll be given exercises to keep your blood flowing properly, such as tensing your fist repeatedly or crossing and uncrossing your legs periodically. Once the donation is complete (after 10 mins or so), they will disconnect you from the machine and you’ll be sat up very slowly so make sure you’re not lightheaded. If you are (I was first time), they’ll leave you a bit longer until you feel well enough to get up. You can then go and get a drink and a snack (usually a selection of fruit, crisps or Club biscuits in this area), and after 5-10 mins you’re free to go. After a couple of days, you usually get a text saying where your donation has been issued and then you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Top nutrition tips

Make sure you are really well hydrated on donation day. You’ll be given water there, but best to drink regularly throughout the day too as it’ll ensure you maintain good blood pressure (which makes the donation process quicker)

Also, eat adequately during the day. Giving blood can make you feel a bit lightheaded so you don’t want to compound this by also have low blood sugar levels. Eating slow release carbohydrates, balanced with some protein and fat will help.

Make sure your diet overall contains adequate iron. The best source of iron is red meat because it’s easiest for the body to absorb, but you can also get it from green leafy vegetables, dried fruit and cereals. Iron is absorbed better in the presence of vitamin C, so including foods such as citrus fruits, kiwis and peppers in the same meal can be beneficial.

Top tips

  • Be prepared for it to take around an hour from start to finish, particularly if you’re later in the day when they might be a bit behind
  • Arrive two minutes early and have a wee as otherwise with all the water you’ll be BURSTING by the time you’re done
  • Take a book or something to read, but remember that you’ll only have hand during the donation so a phone or Kindle is easier
  • The finger prick and the needle going in are the only ouchy bits and they are literally momentary
  • If you’re a bit squeamish, don’t look at the needle arm and just have a chat with your donation carer whilst they’re fiddling about, they are always lovely
  • Have the Club biscuit! It is worth giving up a pint of blood for a chocolate orange Club
  • It is also cool to humblebrag about being a blood donor on social media – stocks are always low so share your inner glow (you can legitimately feel super good about having potentially saved a life) and if you encourage one friend to donate as a result, that is amazing! Often people forget to share their positive experiences, so make sure you do.  This week you can use the hashtag #mybloodstory

You can register as a blood donor and find your nearest donation session at