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01 May 2019

Top tips for blood donation

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Turn up, pop the needle in, give your pint, job’s a good 'un - right? Well, yes, but there are some extra things you can do to make sure your donation runs as smoothly as possible. Here are our top tips.

Before donation...

...check the blood stocks online

If you know your blood type, it's a great idea to check the blood stocks before your visit.  We aim to stock six days' supply of each blood group at all times, and this page is updated every week day so it has up to date information on the blood stock levels. If we have high stocks of your group, it would be better to come back when stocks are lower. This is because you can only give blood every twelve weeks, and if there was a need for your blood type in the interim period, you wouldn’t be able to donate. However, if you have never given blood before or stock of your blood group is below six days, we would be delighted to welcome you.

...drink lots of water

It's always a good idea to be fully hydrated before giving blood. We recommend you drink at least three glasses of water in the three hours before donation and also have another 500ml drink of water while you wait. This might seem like a lot, but research has shown the more hydrated you are, the less likely you are to feel faint during and after your donation.

...eat a salty snack

It's never a good idea to give blood on an empty stomach, so keep to your regular schedule of having your normal breakfast, lunch or dinner. If it’s been more than three hours since you last ate and you are due to give blood soon, a savoury or salty snack is recommended, and please remember to leave some room for our biscuits as a post-donation treat.  We can neither confirm nor deny that biscuits munched after giving blood contain zero calories...

During donation...

...wear loose, comfortable clothing

This may seem like an odd thing to mention, but it does catch a few folk out. We collect your donation from a vein on the inside of your elbow, so it makes life bit easier if you wear loose sleeves that are easily rolled up. Also, bear in mind that you'll need to manoeuvre onto a donation chair or bed to give blood, so wear clothing that you can move around easily in.

...think about the fighter pilots 

Did you know muscle tensing exercises can really help maintain your blood pressure and prevent you from feeling lightheaded? The science behind it is that squeezing your muscles, particularly the big ones in your backside and thighs, helps keep your blood pumping.  And it's not just us - apparently fighter pilots use muscle tensing exercises to stop them fainting in g-force.

So, we think if it's good enough for fighter pilots, it's good enough for us. Follow these simple exercises before the needle goes in or comes out, before getting up, or any time you feel unwell.

  • Cross your legs.
  • Press your thighs together and tense your abdominal muscles.
  • At the same time stretch your ankles so that your toes point towards you.
  • Hold this position for five seconds then relax for five seconds.
  • Repeat five times on this side.
  • Now re-cross your legs the other way, and repeat.

See a demo on our muscle tensing exercises video:

After donation...

...relax

Rest on the donating bed for at least three minutes after your donation is complete.  Then join us at our refreshments area for a snack and a drink. Take a break for a minimum of five minutes.   Look after yourself for the rest of the day. Drink three glasses of water over the next three hours and eat regular meals. 

...avoid heavy lifting and vigorous exercise

We hate to say it, but giving blood really is the perfect excuse to skip that exercise class your friend has been harping on about.  For your own safety, we recommend you avoid strenuous or hazardous activities for the rest of the day, as it could make you feel a bit faint. 

Avoid prolonged standing or hot baths. Please avoid excess alcohol, as it will add to the effects of losing a unit of blood. If you're a smoker, we recommend not having a cigarette for the first two hours.

Letting your body rest will help to replenish fluids lost while giving blood. No need to feel guilty that you've skipped a workout. You've earned mega brownie points by being a life-saver.

...share your good deed

You've done an amazing thing and you should be feeling pretty proud of yourself, so why not share your good deed on your social media? It’s a bonus for us if you encourage some of your friends and family to take that first step towards saving a life. Our social media team love a good blether and a well-positioned #DonorSelfie, so get creative with our biscuit selection or our stickers and send your efforts to SNBTS Facebook or Twitter channels.

Current blood stock levels across Scotland

We aim to retain 6 days of stocks at any time in order to meet the requirements of patients in Scotland.

Learn more about blood types