I wish I’d known a few things to make my first donation easier. Here’s what I learnt or found out:
1. Wear layers if it’s cold outside but make sure you’re wearing something less warm to donate in. My friend was wearing a t-shirt and jeans and was fine. I was in a wool dress and nearly fainted.
2. Do drink 500ml of water before you donate – this helps avoid fainting too.
3. Take gloves/hand warmers – your hands might get cold with the drop in blood pressure especially if you have Raynauds.
4. Eat iron-rich foods before and afterwards – black pudding is the best for raising haemoglobin levels but if you can’t stomach this then spinach, nuts (in large quantities) and red meat are all great. Women should also avoid donating around their periods as iron levels will be lower then. If you have heavy periods you may not pass the haemoglobin (iron levels in blood) test before donation.
5. Don’t try and get up too fast afterwards. Take your time. Ensure you leave at least an hour and a half for the whole process. As my body was not used to it I had to rest for a while afterwards.
6. Don’t do any strenuous exercise for the next two days. I rested as I felt a bit weak, although I was fine to go shopping a couple of hours later (window shopping so I didn’t have to carry anything).
7. Try to avoid using your donor arm as much as possible for about 24 hours, and leave the pressure pad and bandage/plaster on until then too. This will minimise bruising. I didn’t have any because of this and I also avoided using that arm for two days.
8. Go with someone, preferably someone who has been before. This helped as they could tell me what to expect and support me. Maybe they’ll warm your hands and take that picture too! If you tell the staff you have a needle phobia they can give you extra support.
9. You don’t need a local anaesthetic- it isn’t painful. It’s just like having a small quick injection and then you don’t feel a thing.
10. If you feel ill after donation, ensure you contact the number you are given so that they know your donation may not be safe. Of course it goes without saying that you should be honest when answering questions before.