Donating blood can be a lifeline to someone in need. It’s estimated that one blood donation can save up to 3 lives. While there’s no doubt saving a life is the biggest positive impact you can make, donating blood can come with even more benefits.
What are the benefits of donating blood?
You’ll be giving back to your community
A lot of people donate blood simply because it feels good to help others. Research has found that altruism, or helping other people, can boost your mental health too.
It may benefit your cardiovascular health
Regularly giving blood may be linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Who can give blood?
You can give blood if you’re:
- Generally healthy
- Between the ages of 17 and 65
- Weigh at least 50kg and under 158kg
- Meet all the donor eligibility criteria, which will be checked when you donate
Who can’t give blood?
There are some things that might prevent you from donating blood, such as if you have:
- A history of cancer
- Some heart conditions
- Had an organ transplant
- Hepatitis B or C
- Injected some non-prescribed medicines
- Received blood, platelets, plasma or any other blood products after 1 January 1980
You may have to wait to give blood if:
- You feel unwell
- You’re pregnant or recently had a baby
- You’ve recently had a tattoo or piercing
- You’ve travelled to and from certain countries
- You’re waiting for a diagnosis for some medical reasons
- You’ve taken pre-exposure prophylaxis or post-exposure prophylaxis in the past 3 months
- You’ve had sexual contact with a partner who is positive for an STI
What happens at the blood donation appointment?
It’s important to confirm that you’re fit and healthy to give blood, so some questions may be asked depending on what you’ve written on your Donor Safety Check form. Sometimes you may be asked to see a nurse before you can donate.
If all is well, you’ll be checked to make sure you have enough haemoglobin. A small drop of blood will be taken from your finger. This is put in a solution and the time it takes to drop to the bottom will show the team whether you can give blood. If the drop takes too long to sink, you’ll be offered further testing with a machine that gives a numerical haemoglobin value.
If everything is looking healthy, you’ll be taken to a donation chair. A needle will be placed in your arm and your blood collected. To encourage the flow of blood, a cuff will be placed on your arm and you may be advised to do some applied muscle tension exercises to make the flow even easier.
A full donation of blood is 470ml and the machine will automatically stop when it reaches this level. The needle will be removed and a dressing put on top. It’s a good idea to keep pressure on the dressing to encourage healing.
You’ll be offered a drink and a snack following your donation. You’re encouraged to wait a short period of time before leaving to ensure you’re feeling well. If you’re feeling unwell at any point, alert a member of staff and they can help you.
What are the different blood types?
There are 4 main blood groups, based on the antigens found on your blood cells: A, B, O and AB.
Your blood type will also be categorised as positive or negative based on whether a protein called an Rh antigen is found on the surface of your blood cells. This makes 8 different blood types in total:
- A positive: 30% of people, the second-most common blood type
- A negative: 8% of people, the universal platelet type
- B positive: 8% of people, one of the rarest blood types
- B negative: 2% of people, one of the rarest blood types
- O positive: 35% of people, the most common blood type
- O negative: 13% of people, the universal donor type
- AB positive: 2% of people, one of the rarest blood types
- AB negative: 1% of people, the rarest blood type
What blood type is the universal donor type?
O negative is the universal donor type, meaning it can be used in transfusions for everyone, no matter their blood type.
How do I know my blood type?
You’ll find out your blood type after your first blood donation.
Where does your blood go when you donate?
Giving blood helps people who:
- Have suffered a serious injury
- Have a condition like anaemia, cancer or a blood disorder
- Are having an operation or transplant
After you donate blood, it’s usually separated into its different components, such as red blood cells, platelets and plasma. This allows people to receive the specific component they need.
How much blood is taken?
The average person has nearly 5 litres of circulating blood. The volume of blood taken is usually 470ml, which is less than 10% of your total blood volume. It only takes around 36 hours for your body to replace the blood you donated.
How do I donate blood?
You can register to give blood at https://my.blood.co.uk/preregister. Men can give blood every 12 weeks and women can give blood every 16 weeks. We’d encourage you to donate as often as you can.
This article was medically reviewed by Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi.