Blood Donation Side Effects

Blood can be donated if the person is healthy and has voluntarily donated blood with the help of a process called


Most of the people who donate blood are unpaired volunteers who donate blood for community supply. In most of the cases, the donors give blood to their family or friends needing a transfusion due to the limited supplies. This condition is mostly seen in poorer countries.

However, a person may experience a few blood donation side effects after donating blood. The blood of the donor is tested and then only used for transfusion purposes. See to it that the health care provider uses a disposable syringe to draw the blood. Before we move on to the side effects, let us take a quick look at the blood donation process.

Blood Transfusion

A blood donor has to go through the screening of his/her blood to make sure whether the blood is safe or not. This screening test involves the testing for diseases that can be transmitted to the recipient through blood transfusion. This test mainly includes screening of diseases like HIV and Viral Hepatitis. The donor should have a clear medical history and should undergo a physical examination.

A donor should wait for at least 8 weeks that is up to 56 days before donating the blood again. A donor can donate

400-450 milliliters

of blood. Blood transfusion can be either done manually or with automated equipment. Automated equipment takes only specific portions of the blood. Blood transfusion should be done under the supervision of trained and skilled technicians.

  • Blood is drawn from the vein called Median Cubital Vein which is present on the inside of the elbow.
  • The skin which is present above the vein is first cleaned with the help of iodine and this helps to prevent the bacterial infection at the place of puncture. This also helps to prevent the blood drawn from being infected.
  • A Tourniquet is used to elevate the blood pressure in the veins of the arm because this helps in speeding up the process.
  • In order to target the vein and to increase the blood flow, an object is given to the donor to squeeze repeatedly.
  • Then a needle which has a large gauge that minimizes force of the needle that can damage the Red Blood Cells is used to draw blood.
  • The blood drawn from the donor is collected into a large plastic bag and this bag contains Anticoagulants and Preservatives such as Citrate, Sodium, Dextrose, Phosphate and Adenine.
  • The Red Blood Cells and the Plasma are separated from the collected blood and then stored.
  • Plasma is used for other medications and for transfusions.

Read the following article in order to know the various side effects of blood donation.

Side Effects of Blood Donation

A healthy person can donate around 1 pint or unit of blood volume and the lost blood should be replaced within a day. However, the bone marrow may take around a week’s time to replace the blood cells. Lightheadedness and dizziness are most common blood donation side effects and is experienced mostly by teenagers. Around 11% of the teenagers are prone to the side effects of blood donation. The following are a few other common side effects.

  • Tingling sensation in nose or lips
  • Falling or fainting
  • Convulsions
  • Confusion
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Stress and
  • Stiffness in joints

These symptoms are usually temporary and may last for about one or two days maximum. Make sure that you consult a doctor if the condition remains for a longer period of time.

Side Effects of Blood Donation Types

There are a few blood donation types apart from blood transfusions and are known as Automated Blood Collection(ABC). The following are a few side effects of these processes.

  • Apheresis :

    For this process the platelets are separated from the donor’s blood and it may last for 2 hours. Since the blood drawn for the platelets is transfused back to the donor this process may not have any kind of side effects.

  • Alyx Blood Donation :

    Red blood cells donation is the other name used for this process. It may not also show any kind of side effects and this process may last just up to 25 minutes.

  • Plasmapheresis :

    This process is almost similar to the above mentioned processes and for this process the plasma is separated from the blood. Fainting, dizziness, convulsions, stress and nausea are a few side effects experienced by a person after this process.

Blood donation side effects can be lowered by following a few precautionary steps before donating blood. Make sure that you consume plenty of water and healthy foods. Take a look at the eligibility for blood donation and also its risks.

Eligibility for Blood Donation

  • The donor should have a good health.
  • The donor should be at least 17 years of age and the minimum age for blood donation varies by state.
  • There is no upper age limit for blood donation.
  • Donor should clear both physical and as well health history assessments.

Risks of Blood Donation

  • Blood donation is considered to be safe.
  • One should make sure that the needles used for blood transfusion are sterile, disposable and a new needle is used for each donor.
  • There is a risk of contracting many blood-borne infections.

Blood Complications

There are certain blood donation complications that are experienced by many people. According to a survey conducted by
National Institutes of Health, around 5 million Americans require blood transfusion every year. Most of the time transfusions are safe and in rare cases they get complicated. Read on to know the various complications that occur due to blood donations.

Blood Type Compatibility

  • It is very important for the blood type of the donor and the recipient to be same as this helps in avoiding the blood donation complications.
  • The antigens and the RH factor in the blood should be compatible with the blood of the donor before the transfusion.
  • There are chances for the antibodies of the recipient to reject the blood of the donor during a transfusion. This can generally happen due to a human error ie., when the provider gives an incompatible blood type to the patient.
  • When a person is given incompatible blood then, he/she are more prone to flank pain, chest pain, nausea, fever and chills.
  • A person can experience rapid heart rate, kidney failure, shock, seeping in and around the surgical side, drop in blood pressure and rise in temperatures if he/she is unconscious during the transfusion.
  • Sometimes, these reactions can be life threatening and are usually seen in 1 in 25,000 people.
  • These complications are not immediately seen after the transfusion. They can be observed even after a couple of months as well.
  • Increase in the liver enzymes, drop in red blood cells count, fever, jaundice and unwellness are the common symptoms experienced by everyone after blood transfusion.

Other Reactions

  • Around 1 to 3 percent of the people experience fever as the basic symptom after a blood transfusion.
  • Itching and hives without the rise in temperatures are also commonly observed in at least 1% of the people.
  • In very rare cases, a person may experience certain allergic reactions that can be life-threatening and this is generally termed as Anaphylaxis.
  • Fluid accumulation in the lungs or pulmonary edema are also very rare blood donation complications and this is generally observed in less than 1 person in 150,000 cases.
  • People suffering from leukemia or HIV are known as auto immunocompromised patients and can experience graft-versus host disease due to blood transfusion.

Transmission of Infections

  • Transmission of infectious diseases is one of the major blood donation complications.
  • It is important for the donor to check his/her health history or potential risk factors before donating the blood.
  • The possibilities of infection are more in underdeveloped countries and in places where proper screening of the donated blood is not done.

Immune Suppression Possibility

  • There are chances for a person to suffer from suppressed immune system due to blood transfusion.
  • Many people suffer from a drop in the blood cells that are responsible for promoting immunity.
  • There are chances for a person to suffer from cancer due to poor immune system.

These were the blood donation complications that are commonly seen in most of the people after blood transfusion. Read on to know more about the various dangers of blood donation.

Various Dangers of Giving Blood

There are chances for a person to suffer from the following dangers due to blood donations.

  • Deferral

    : This condition generally occurs when a person donating blood cannot give blood either permanently or temporarily. Deferral can also occur when the donor gives wrong personal information while donating blood during screening and may experience fainting and other health consequences after giving blood. Health care providers should take utmost care in screening the donated blood in order to avoid serious health complications such as mad cow diseases and HIV.

  • Dehydration

    : This is one of the most common dangers that every donor feels after donating his/her blood. One should take all the necessary precautions like eating proper breakfast and lunch before donating blood. He/she must drink plenty and plenty of fluids as well in order to avoid dehydration. A person can avoid fainting, lightheadedness and dizziness by eating and drinking properly.

  • Bruising

    : Sometimes, bruising can also be observed in and around the site from where the blood is drawn. This can be usually avoided by covering the site with an elastic bandage and gauze. The bandage has to be left there for at least a few hours. You can also apply ice on the bruised site as this helps in relieving pain and also reduces swelling.

  • Weakness

    : People who donate blood should avoid getting involved in strenuous physical activities or exercises at least for a day. They should avoid lifting things that are heavy with the hand from which the blood was drawn. Recovery time is quite short for people who donate plasma and platelets as the red blood cells are generally donated during donation itself.

These were the various dangers of blood donations. However, a person may also suffer from other complications such as, fainting spells along with convulsions that may last for more than a minute, lightheadedness, diaphoresis ie., excess sweating and pallor ie., turning pale. Read to know about the restrictions for blood donation.

Restrictions for Donating Blood

Many people suffer from certain medical conditions that restricts them from donating blood voluntarily. This can also be caused due to certain habits and lifestyle of a person that can be fatal for the health of the recipient. People suffering from blood disorders, infections and HIV/AIDS should avoid donating blood.

Communicable Diseases

The following are a few diseases that restricts a person from donating blood.

  • Hepatitis

    : A person suffering from this condition should make it a point to avoid donating blood at least for 12 months or till the doctor permits.

  • Measles

    : This is a kind of infectious disease that restricts a person from donating blood for 3 weeks.

  • Diabetes

    : People suffering from this condition can donate blood if the disease is under control. They can donate blood 3 weeks after undergoing insulin treatment.

  • Chicken Pox

    : A person suffering from this condition should avoid himself/herself from donating blood at least for 4 weeks.

  • Seizures/Convulsions/Epilepsy

    : A person suffering from these conditions should keep in mind that he/she did not go through such episodes 3 months before blood donation.

  • High Blood Pressure

    : People suffering from this condition have no restrictions except that they should maintain normal blood sugar levels before donating blood.

  • Mononucleosis

    : A person suffering from this condition should make sure that he/she is fully recovered from this condition before donating blood.

  • Malaria

    : A person suffering malaria should not donate blood for at least 3 years. A person should avoid donating blood for at least a year if he/she visits malaria affected area.

Other Possible Restrictions

The following are a few other restrictions that can keep the donor away from blood donation.

  • Accutane/Proscar/Propecia :

    A person taking drugs is restricted from donating blood for at least up to 4 weeks.

  • Anthrax Vaccination :

    A person can donate blood if he/she is free from its symptoms.

  • Asthma :

    A person can donate blood if he/she is free from its symptoms.

  • Alcoholism :

    A person under alcohol influence should avoid donating blood.

  • Cold and Flu :

    There are no restrictions for a person suffering minute cold, running nose and cough.

  • Body Piercings :

    A person can donate blood if he/she has no complaints of infections after the procedure. However, a person with body piercing should not donate blood for at least 12 months.

Now that you know about the various risks, complications, dangers and restrictions for donating blood, take a look at what to consider before, during and after blood donation.

How Important Is Your Blood To You And Others ?

The American Red Cross states that at least 1 in every 2 seconds someone needs blood in the US. So donating a pint of your blood can make you save about 3 different lives. A normal healthy human being is known to have about 10-12 pints of blood. All you will loose can be easily replenished with time, within a month.

What To Eat Before A Donation?

Take a healthy breakfast prior to donation. Make your breakfast rich in iron. Include beans, iron-fortified cereals, meat, green leafy vegetables. You can eat the food given below 1-2 days before donation to make your body have no significant iron loss.

  • Bread or Muffins
  • Fish, Shellfish, Red Meats and Poultry
  • Seeds and Nuts
  • Bananas, Water Melon and Strawberries
  • Dry Fruits like Apricots (dried), Dates, Figs, Prunes, Raisins
  • Juices like Apple juice, Tomato juice, Prune Juice
  • Pizza (cheese or pepperoni)
  • Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers
  • Beef or Bean Burritos or Tacos

What To Drink Before A Donation ?

You must keep your body hydrated all the time. This is not only necessary before and after a donation but also every time. But little extra care must be given to your body by drinking water in plenty before and after a donation. The amount of fluid replaced from your body during a donation will be replenished easily.

What Not To Do Before A Donation ?

Do not eat foods with high fat levels. They can make your blood unusable and interfere with few of the blood tests. Do not skip meals the day of your donation. A small snack can also be fine but make sure you do not go to donate immediately after you have eaten.

What To Do After A Donation ?

A light snack and a glass of fresh fruit juice can be taken immediately following a donation. If you are feeling lightheaded, talk to your attendant present there and lie down for sometime. This is a very usual symptom, which will go away in an hour. Most people do not complain of this also.

How Safe Is A Donation ?

Donating blood is quite a safe process. You will not lose anything. Utmost care is taken to prevent any transmissible disease and infections. All your personal details with be kept confidential.

  • Yes, blood donation is a safe method today. Many safeguards have been created till date to make the donation of blood safe.
  • A potential donor is requested for a mini-health test. Medical history, physical health screening, family history, medications are also taken into consideration before deciding if you are an ideal candidate for a blood donation procedure.
  • In case, you are not found eligible for donation, you are barred.
  • The deferral may be for a short term or may be a complete denial to donate.
  • Trained volunteers, technicians trained in drawing blood (called phlebotomists) and nurses are employed to make the procedure convenient and safe for all donors. Only sterile, new and disposable medical materials are used, including the syringe, cotton etc.
  • This prevents the donors from getting contaminated from any disease.
  • The blood that is collected is made to go through extensive testing.
  • This testing is done to check for the infections associated with diseases like HIV, hepatitis or syphilis.
  • Previously most people donating blood were contaminated with AIDS. But now most care is taken to reduce this risk.
  • In the US, the chances of getting infected by AIDS from a transfusion is less than one in every 6,00,000, which is a very negligible data.

Who Are Helped By Your Donation ?

The need of blood does not care for age, ethnicity, rich or poor, habits etc. It can come to people of all ages, all ethnics and all economic standards. Mostly accident cases need the blood most. Blood loss during surgery, internal bleeding due to accidents, some diseases are very much dependant on blood. The following diseases demand a blood transfusion most often:

  • Burn victims,
  • Some cancer patients
  • Hemophilia patients
  • Leukemia patients
  • Premature births
  • Sickle cell patients
  • Trauma victims

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