BLOOD DONATION

Myths and facts about blood donation

In Summary

•You can safely donate blood during your period if it is required and your period will not be affected by the donation.

•It may be better to donate the week after periods.

The launch of blood donation drive set to be carried out for one week at Uhuru Park, Nairobi on 14th June 2021./DOUGLAS OKIDDY
The launch of blood donation drive set to be carried out for one week at Uhuru Park, Nairobi on 14th June 2021./DOUGLAS OKIDDY

Blood donation isn't for women: Unless a woman is pregnant, lactating, anaemic, or suffering from a medical issue that lowers their haemoglobin count, they can donate blood. Women can safely donate blood once every four months if they are eligible while men can donate every three months.

 Can l donate blood during my period? You can safely donate blood during your period if it is required and your period will not be affected by the donation. It may be better to donate the week after periods, but it is still manageable if you are not bleeding heavily, your haemoglobin is more than 11 g/dl and you are not in any discomfort or pain. However, if you are having a particularly heavy or prolonged period, it is advisable not to  donate because any form of blood loss can reduce the iron levels in your body and potentially make you feel unwell for a short time. You must also exclude pregnancy if a period has been missed before you give blood. If you have been prescribed medication by your doctor to help cope with period pain.

Giving blood will make you ill: Blood donation affects women the same way that it would affect a man. Some people may feel nauseous, lightheaded, or dizzy after donating blood. If this happens, it should only last a few minutes. You can lie down with your feet up until you feel better. You may also experience some bleeding at the site of the needle. Can i donate blood if l have a tattoo? You have to wait for at least four months from the date of your tattoo or piercing before donating.

Can l donate if l smoke? You can donate even if you are a smoker. However, you must be at least 18 years old and weigh at least 50 kilograms. Also, you should avoid smoking for three hours after donating blood and also stay away from alcohol for 24 hours prior to donating blood.

Can I donate blood if l am diabetic?

If you have no other medical consequences from diabetes such as eye, blood vessel or kidney problems and if you control your insulin levels through a healthy diet and lifestyle, there is no reason why you can’t donate blood. However, if you use insulin made from bovine secretion, you will not be eligible to donate due to concerns about Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (a variation of “mad cow” disease). But not all modern insulin will prohibit you from donating blood. You cannot donate blood only and only if you take supplements to fix your diabetes, like insulin. You CAN donate blood if you control your diabetes with the help of lifestyle changes and pills.

Can I donate blood if l have high/low blood pressure?

If you tend to have low blood pressure, it is fine to donate blood as long as you feel fine at the time of donation and your blood pressure is at least 100/60 (systolic/diastolic). If you have high blood pressure, you are fine to donate, as long as your blood pressure is no higher than 180/100. Medications for high blood pressure should also not prohibit you from donating, but you will be informed in advance if you are not a suitable candidate.

Can I donate blood if l have been treated for cancer?

It depends on the type of cancer and treatment you’ve received. If you have had cancers of the blood such as leukemia or lymphoma, you will unfortunately not be eligible to donate blood. According to the American Red Cross Blood Service  it is fine to donate blood in the case of other cancers as long as it has been treated successfully, it has been a year since the completion of treatment, and if you are still in remission.

Can I donate blood if l have high cholesterol?

You won’t be barred from blood donation because of high cholesterol. When a unit of 480ml of blood is drawn and diluted, the level of cholesterol in the blood will not affect the quality of the blood. Even if you take medication, this will not make you ineligible.

Can l give blood during my period?

You may give blood during a period, but if you are having a particularly heavy period it would be better for you not to. This is because any form of blood loss can reduce the iron levels in your body and potentially make you feel unwell for a short time. If you are having medical investigations please wait until these have been completed. You must also exclude pregnancy if a period has been missed before you give blood. If you have been prescribed medication by your doctor to help cope with period pain or are having heavy or prolonged periods.

Can l donate blood if l am a rare blood group?

All blood types can be taken. However, there are instances where appeals are made for people with rare blood types, such as O negative and B negative, to donate. If you don’t know your blood type, you will find out after your first donation.

Who can donate blood?

  • fit and healthy
  • weigh between 50kg and 160kg
  • are aged between 17 and 66, or over 70 and have given blood in the last two years

If you are underweight, pregnant, receiving IVF treatment, are on certain types of medication or have previously received a blood transfusion, you are unable to give blood.

Can giving blood cause you to be anaemic? Yes, if you donate too frequently. Haemoglobin ( the red pigment in your blood) levels vary from person to person. Men usually have higher levels than women due to women having periods, but most blood donor services will ensure that your haemoglobin levels will not drop below normal after you have donated.

Can I donate blood if I am on antibiotics?

It is better to wait for at least 48 hours after the last dose of antibiotics to donate.

Do l have to be on bed rest after donating blood? You don’t require bed rest but you should have fluids and refreshments after you donate and leave the band-aid on for 6 hours. Do not skip any meals.

What should l eat and drink before l donate blood?

You should regularly before you donate to keep your sugar levels stable and to minimise or stop feeling dizzy after donation. Having a snack before donation and ensuring you are properly hydrated can help maintain these blood sugar levels. Ensuring your diet contains foods rich in iron - such as meats and green leafy vegetables - will help to keep you feeling well during and after donation.

Can l drink alcohol before l donate blood?

Abstain from consuming alcohol on the day you donate and the day after donation. Keeping your body well hydrated will help bring your blood volume levels back to normal. Most of your blood is made up of water. The fluids that you lose during donation can cause a drop in blood pressure which may contribute to you feeling faint and dizzy. Drinking alcohol a day before and after donating can affect your hydration levels and delay recovery. To help prevent this from happening, drink 500ml of water immediately before you give blood. Most blood donor agencies provide donors with water and snacks before and sometimes after you donate.

Can l exercise before and after l give blood? You should avoid any vigorous exercise or heavy lifting on the day of your donation – both before and after you’ve given blood. Keeping your body in a rested state is important to give it a chance to replenish the fluids lost during donation, which will help you avoid feeling dizzy or lightheaded and keep you well. Light exercise such as walking is fine, but always make sure that you are fully recovered and hydrated prior to your donation.

Can l give blood after getting the COVID-19 vaccine? If you have received any of the COVID-19 vaccines that do not contain live virus you may donate blood if you feel well. The National Blood Transfusion Service may however consider implementing a precautionary deferral period of up to seven days  to minimize the impact of call-backs from donors who develop symptoms subsequent to donating soon after vaccination. If you feel unwell after receiving the vaccine you should defer from donating blood for between 7 and 28 days after complete resolution of symptoms, or as specified after receipt of a virus vector-based or live-attenuated vaccine, whichever is the longer period. In situations where it cannot be established whether you received a live virus vaccine, a four-week deferral period should be applied.

For more about COVID_19 and blood donation.

Can donating blood compromise my immune system?

There is no such lasting danger to the immune system when you donate blood. While the Red Blood Cells return to normal within a few days, the White Blood Cells take a few weeks, However, if the body finds itself in danger, they can be produced quickly.

Can l get fat or obese from donating blood? Blood donation doesn't affect your body weight at all, it remains unchanged unless you decide to reward yourself with too much junk food post-donation.Bad eating habits have nothing to do with blood donation. Can l donate blood if l suffer from seasonal allergies? Seasonal allergies do not interfere with blood donation, just like any other mild cold and cough does not affect your daily routine.

Can l be prone to infections once l donate blood?

A fresh needle is used for each blood donor. So, there is no chance of an infection that is usually assumed to be transferred from needles -- like HIV -- from blood donation.