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Every once in a while, we see or hear news reports about an especially devastating natural disaster happening somewhere in the world. Such catastrophes—whether typhoons, earthquakes or tornados—frequently involve large numbers of serious injuries that require blood transfusions for people to survive. In those moments of enormous need, the International Red Cross and other organizations make urgent, high-profile pleas for blood donations. And ordinary people answer the call. Whether you know it or not, that same need exists every day. And as a blood donor, you become a life saver—a hero.

In order to ensure that your blood donation (really, your gift to someone you will probably never meet) can do as much good as possible, consider the following dos and don’ts. Not only will they help healthcare professionals make the most of your gift later, they’ll also help safeguard your own health as a donor!

Do the following:

  • Eat iron-rich foods starting a week or two before you donate. These include red meat, eggs, whole grains, and dark green vegetables like spinach. Get additional vitamin C to help in iron absorption.
  • Eat a healthy, low-fat meal 4 or more hours before you donate.
  • Take plenty of fluids not only on the day of your donation, but also on the day before and the day after. This will keep you from becoming dehydrated.
  • Be healthy on the donation date. If you suffer any flu or cold symptoms, reschedule.
  • Be sure to rest and have a snack right after your donation. These are usually provided at the donation center to help ensure you don’t become lightheaded or faint afterwards.
  • Rest for the remainder of the day so your body can recuperate.


Do not do any of the following:


  • Rush through the cookies and juice provided after your donation. Either gulping them down or skipping them altogether may result in fainting or injury.
  • Donate blood if you are feeling ill or not in perfect health.
  • Donate if you have an empty stomach. Don’t eat right before donating either as this can lead to an upset stomach.
  • Consume caffeine before donating. Caffeinated drinks can act as diuretics, causing the body to get rid of water. You need to be well-hydrated before donating.
  • Smoke right before or after your donation. The nicotine could make you too light-headed. Wait an hour or more after donating. Better yet, don’t smoke at all!
  • Exercise any time in the 24 hours after your donation.
  • Donate if you have an infection for which you are currently taking antibiotics.
  • Donate if you are at high risk for hepatitis or HIV.
  • Consume fatty foods within a day before donating. A blood screening may declare your blood unfit and your donation will be wasted.
  • Donate if you’ve had a body piercing or tattoo done within the last 12 months.
  • Donate if you’re under 17 or weigh less than 110 pounds.
  • Consider driving yourself home after donation. You could faint or fall asleep while driving despite the juice and cookies. Consider having a friend do the driving—one who doesn’t donate on the same day.


Donating blood is all about saving lives and helping people regain their health. The more often you donate, the more others can benefit from your generous gift. It’s a great habit to get into, but it’s also important to donate right!

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