Step by Step
Giving blood takes four steps.
- medical history
- quick mini-physical (temperature, blood pressure, pulse, iron level)
- blood donation (less than 10 minutes)
Confidential Health History
To begin, you complete a confidential form with your name, address and general information about your health history.
A Red Cross staff person will take a drop of blood from a finger to measure the amount of iron in your blood, and will check your blood pressure, pulse and temperature.
Blood is then collected using a sterile, single use needle for each donor. As your donation begins, you will feel a slight pinch. In about 10 minutes, you will have completed your blood donation. Slightly less than a pint of blood is taken (most adults have 10 to 12 pints of blood).
Beverages and Snacks
Next, you will be asked to relax while you enjoy beverages and snacks. This will help your body adjust to the slight decrease in fluid volume. Your body replaces that fluid within 24 hours. You can then leave, knowing that you just may have helped save several lives by donating blood.
There are several things you can do to assure a good donation experience. You'll want a good night's sleep the night before donation. Have a good breakfast or lunch with plenty of liquids like milk, juice or soda ahead of time. After your donation, you can go about your normal daily activities, avoiding any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise.
After Your Donation
If you have any questions or concerns about being eligible to donate blood or your prior blood donations, please call the Red Cross Donor and Client Service Center (DCSC) at 866-236-3276. The DCSC is staffed all day long.
- Drink an extra four glasses (eight ounces each) of non-alcoholic liquids.
- Keep your bandage on and dry for the next five hours, and do not do heavy exercising or lifting.
Post-donation problems are unusual, but they can occur:
- If the needle site starts to bleed, raise your arm straight up and press on the site until the bleeding stops.
- If you get dizzy, lie down and raise your feet.
Because you could experience dizziness or loss of strength, use caution if you plan to do anything that could put you or others at risk of harm. For any hazardous occupation or hobby, follow applicable safety recommendations regarding your return to these activities following a blood donation.
- If you get a bruise, apply ice to the area intermittently for 10-15 minutes during the first 24 hours. Thereafter, apply intermittent warm moist heat for 10-15 minutes to the area, and
a rainbow of colors may occur for about 10 days.
- If you get bruising larger than a 2-3 inch diameter, redness, swelling, or pain where the needle was, or tingling in your fingers or arm, contact the American Red Cross at the telephone number listed below.