Blood donation – a gift that costs you nothing

In the latest episode of the Hello Doctor show, Dr Mol and Vuyelwa from the SANBS team spoke about the importance of donating blood, and how it can help save a life.

And although it’s a gift that costs you nothing but a bit of your time, a lot of people still have questions about the process. Here, we answer your most frequently asked questions about blood donation.

1. Can I get HIV from donating blood?
Absolutely not! All needles and equipment are new, sterile and disposable. All needles are sealed and used only once.

2. Can I drink or eat before donating?
Yes, it’s important that you do. In fact, you won’t be able to donate blood unless you’ve eaten a substantial meal 3-4 hours before you donate, and that you’ve had enough non-alcoholic fluids to drink during the day.

3. How often can I donate blood?
The waiting period between whole blood donations is 56 days, which means you can give blood every two months. Women of childbearing age should not donate more than four times per year. Platelet donors can donate up to once a month.

4. Can women donate while pregnant?
No – pregnant or breastfeeding moms shouldn’t give blood until six months after the baby’s birth or three months after the baby’s weaned.

5. How long does it take to donate blood from beginning to end?
The whole donation process – including filling in the questionnaire and having a pre-examination – takes about 20-30 minutes.

6. Does it hurt?
No. The simple finger-prick test and the needle insertion may cause a bit of discomfort, but the actual donation process shouldn’t be painful.

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7. How much blood is drawn?
Approximately 475ml of blood is drawn. Don’t worry though, your body replaces the plasma within 24 hours, and red blood cells are replaced by your bone marrow within 3 to 4 days.

8. What happens if I feel dizzy or faint?
If you feel dizzy, lie down or sit with your head on your knees. In the unlikely event that you feel faint, be sure to lie down on your back with your legs elevated. This usually helps the feeling to pass.

9. What if my arm starts to bruise or bleed?
In the case of bleeding, raise your arm up and apply pressure to the site until the bleeding stops. If you are worried about severe bruising, contact us or speak to a doctor or nurse.

10. How soon after I donate can I carry on with normal activities?
It is best to have a snack and drink plenty of fluids during the four hours after you’ve donated. Also, don’t do any heavy exercise or lifting after donation, and reduce regular exercise for a few days. Other than that, you can return to normal immediately after donating.

The best gift
So, there you have it. Knowing we’ve done something to improve the life of others not only boosts our self-esteem and gives us a sense of purpose; it also shifts our attention away from our own stresses and worries. So if you’re struggling to think of the perfect gift this Christmas, consider donating blood. After all, what greater gift is there than the gift of life?

To find out more about donating blood, visit: