Q: I am taking high blood pressure medication. Can I donate blood?

A: Yes, you can donate as long as your blood pressure is within normal limits.

Q: Can I donate if I am a diabetic?

A: Yes, you can donate as long as you do not have any signs or symptoms of peripheral vascular disease.

Q: Will my blood be tested for HIV, and if so, will I be notified of the result?

A: Every unit of blood is tested for HIV. We test for the antibodies to the virus as well as the P24 antigen, which makes up part of the virus itself. You will be notified only if the test result is abnormal.

Q: This is my first donation. Should I expect to feel lightheaded?

A: No, the amount of blood that is removed at the time of donation is never enough to cause anyone to feel lightheaded. On rare occasions, some donors experience feeling of lightheadedness and dizziness, but it is not related to the amount of blood that we take out. It is probably more related to the anxiety that some people feel when they come to donate.

Q: Does it hurt to donate blood?

A: Most people say that the worst part about donating blood is the little finger stick that we do. The actual process of donating blood is much less traumatic than many people imagine. If you can stand to have your finger pricked, you can stand to donate blood.

Q: How long will it take before my body restores all the blood cells given during the whole blood donation?

A: Red cells last for approximately 120 days; however, your body has many reserve red cells and also has the ability to make more red cells when it needs to. Generally speaking, in about four to six weeks, your body should replace all the red cells that you give during a whole blood donation.

Q: Can I exercise after I donate?

A: Yes, you can. There are a couple of things that you need to be careful about. The arm from which the blood was taken should not be used for any strenuous activity. This may cause the arm to bruise or to bleed, which can be painful. Also, you may notice that your stamina after donating blood is less than it was before. If, for instance, you run one mile every day, the day that you donate you probably will be able to complete the mile, but it will be much more difficult for you than usual.
Q: I have a pilot's license. Can I fly a plane immediately after a blood donation?

A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) both recommend that no one attempt to operate any heavy machinery that can be potentially dangerous within 48 to 72 hours after they donate. This is a good rule to follow. If you are going to do anything that is potentially risky or dangerous after you donate, wait two to three days before you attempt the activity.

Q: I got a flu shot yesterday. Can I donate blood?

A: Yes, you can donate after receiving a typical flu shot. Vaccines are of three different types: vaccines that use a killed virus, vaccines that do not use any particles from the virus at all and vaccines that use an attenuated (weakened) virus. If you have received the first or second type of vaccine, you can donate blood immediately. Vaccines that involve an attenuated virus require that you wait a full two weeks before you donate blood.

Q: How long do you store blood?

A: We can store blood for 42 days if we do not freeze it. Frozen blood can be stored ten years, but freezing blood is a poor way of storing it. Generally speaking, we store blood in the refrigerator, where we can store it for up to 42 days.

Q: What is the rarest blood type, and what is the "universal donor?"

A: AB negative is the rarest blood type. The most common blood type is O positive. The universal donor of red cells is O negative. For plasma products, AB negative is the universal donor.

Q: Can I get sick because of blood donation?

A: No, you cannot get sick because of blood donation itself. If you get up too fast after donation, however, you could pass out and injure yourself. This is why we have people sit for a few minutes and have some juice and snacks after donating.
Q: I heard about the development of artificial blood. Does it mean that volunteer blood donors will no longer be needed?

A: The artificial blood that is being produced today does have some uses, but these are fairly limited and restricted. It does not function nearly as well as human blood. Artificial blood can only perform a few of the functions of human red cells, and it does not perform those functions very well.

Q: What are "antibodies?"

A: There are two different kinds of antibodies. First, there are what we call "expected antibodies." This means, for example, that someone who is blood type "A" will have in their serum "anti B." The person who is type "B" will have in their serum "anti A." A person who is type "O" will have in their serum "anti A" and "anti B," and the person who is blood type "AB" will have neither "anti A" nor "anti B" in his or her serum. When we do blood typing, we not only look into red cell to see whether they are type "A," type "B," type "AB" or type "O," but we also look at the serum for antibodies that we expect to be there.
There are other red cell antigens, though, to which people can make antibodies if they are exposed to those red cells. These antibodies are called "unexpected antibodies." We do not expect them to normally be present, but when people receive transfusions or organ transplants or when women are pregnant, they become exposed to foreign tissues and can make antibodies against these other red cell antigens. Therefore, before a patient receives a transfusion, we do what we call an antibody screen, which looks for these unexpected antibodies. If unexpected antibodies are present, then the patient must receive blood that lacks the antigens that triggered the creation of those antibodies to be sure that there is no transfusion reaction.
Q: Can I take some vitamins to build up my blood cells faster?

A: Anyone who donates a unit of blood and wants to replace that blood a little faster may do well to take a vitamin with iron supplement. Vitamin C can beneficial because it aids in the absorption of iron. Other than that, there is not much else you can do except to live a clean, healthy lifestyle. Make sure that your meals are nutritious and your body will take care of the rest.
Q: Will I lose weight?

A: Yes, you do lose about a pound when you donate; however, what you lose is liquid, and your body will very quickly replace the volume that was lost. The lost pound will come back after you have had something to drink or something to eat, usually within a day.

Q: I have tattoos and body piercing. Can I donate?

A: Because of the risks that these procedures entail, at least in terms of spreading hepatitis, people who have had tattoos or body piercing within the last year cannot donate blood. We do make exceptions for ear piercings that were performed in a doctor's office, because doctors know how to use sterile technique more than do non-physicians. Generally speaking, if you have a tattoo or body piercing, you cannot donate for a year following the incident.

Q: I am taking antibiotics. Can I donate?

A: Many people think the reason we ask about medications is that the medications themselves may have a harmful effect on the recipient of the blood. The real reason is that it gives us an idea about your general health.

For instance, if you are taking antibiotics, the antibiotics themselves represent little or no risk to the patient if they receive a unit of blood from you. The reason why you are taking those antibiotics is of more concern to us. If you have an infection, then you probably should not be donating, because that infection may find its way to that unit of blood.
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