Donating Blood: 5 Things to Know Before You Go

Have you ever seen those big, red, blood donation buses on campus and wondered if you were eligible to donate? Here are five things everyone should know before they give blood.

1. Iron Level

To be able to donate blood you have to have a normal hemoglobin level at the time of donation. If you go to give blood but lack enough iron, you won’t be allowed to donate. If this happens to you there is no need to worry because there is an easy solution! If you eat foods that are rich in iron, such as spinach, red meats and beans, you can replenish the iron in your blood. Alternatively, if you don’t like those food there are iron supplements.

2.  Eat and Drink

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Before you donate you need to eat a healthy meal. Avoid fatty foods because those can affect the blood test and cause you not to be able to not donate because there’s too much fat in your blood. You also need to drink at least 16 oz of water before AND after you donate. Also, after you give blood you typically receive a free snack and drink, usually cookies and juice.

3. ID

When going to give blood you must either bring one primary form of ID or two secondary forms of ID. A primary form of ID would be any picture ID, something like a driver’s license, passport or military ID. A secondary form of ID would be one without a photo, such as a credit card, checkbook, social security card, payroll stub or vehicle registration.

4. Tattoos and Piercings

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If you've gotten a tattoo within the past year in a state that doesn’t regulate tattoo facilities, you can’t give blood. States that don’t regulate tattoo facilities are the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming. If you got the tattoo in any other state it is acceptable for you to give blood as long as the tattoo was given by a state-regulated facility.  If you receive a piercing at a place that uses reusable piercing guns, you must wait 12 months before giving blood. If you get pierced using a single-use, sterile needle it is okay for you to give blood. These precautions are because of concerns with hepatitis.

5. Travel

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Depending on where you have traveled, you may not be able to donate. You'll have to fill out a travel form. For reference, you can find one on the American Red Cross Website.  If you have traveled to or visited a country where Malaria is present have to wait three years after completing treatment for Malaria, wait one year after returning from the trip and wait three years after living five years in a country where Malaria is found.

Cover image via Vice