Giving blood is a great thing to do and can help a lot of people. There are some things you can do in the days before you donate and right after that will help make it more likely you will be able to donate and make it more likely that you won't have negative side effects from giving blood. Sometimes donating blood can make you feel weak, ill, or tired. If you are well prepared than you don't have to worry about these side effects.

Iron.
The most common reason why people who desire to give blood aren't allowed to donate is because their iron levels aren't high enough. By eating foods high in iron the two to three days before you donate can make your iron levels higher and make it more likely that you won't be turned away when you go to give blood. They will be doing a simple iron test to determine your levels and they will want them to fall into a high normal range. Some high iron foods include:

  • Breads, Muffins, and Cereal
  • Organ Meats, Shellfish, Red Meats, Fish, and Poultry
  • Seeds, Nuts, Beans, and Eggs
  • Watermelon, Strawberries, and Bananas.
  • Raisins, Dates, Prunes, Figs, and Dried Apricots
  • Prune Juice, Apple Juice, and Tomato Juice
  • Dark Leafy Greens
  • Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Pizza (Pepperoni and Cheese), Beef or Bean Burritos or Tacos- These are more common everyday foods for many then the ones listed above. It should be noted that these foods should be consumed in moderation because they are also high in fat and can raise your blood lipid levels which can also get you turned away from donating blood.

Low Fat Diet.
The second reason many people are turned away when they try to give blood is that they have too many lipids (fats) in their blood. To counteract this problem it is a good idea to consume a low fat diet for two to three days before you donate blood. It doesn't have to be perfect, but consider the foods that you eat and try to limit those high in fat. Aim for a well balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables. Add a few high iron snacks that are also low in fat such as some raisins, dates, or prunes and maybe a few nuts (remember nuts can be high in fat).

Fluids.
If you are dehydrated when you go to give blood it could be impossible to find your vein and you might not be able to donate at all. The other option is that it could take longer and be moreuncomfortable . Having enough fluids in your system will make the process take about 15 minutes, but not having enough fluids could make it take two to three times that long. It is well worth it to drink water, even if you don't like it. If you struggle to drink enough water on a regular basis check out the article Tips For Drinking More Water. To make sure that you aren't dehydrated at the time of donation drink lots of fluids for two to three days before. Make sure it includes lots of water, limits sugar (which slows theabsorption of water by the body), and limit caffeine (which is a diuretic causing lots of water to be lost through additional urine). Before you go make sure you have a bottle of water and bring one with you!

Sleep.
While getting a good night's sleep isn't going to make it more likely that you will be able to give or make a difference while you give, it can make it easier after ward. Some people get tired from donating blood and being well rested before you go is the best option. Try to sleep a full night and wake well rested.

Day Before You Go.
Make sure you eat well. Try to include a fair amount of iron, don't consume a lot of fats, and make sure you get lots of fluids. If you have time take a nap and make sure that you get the extra sleep you may need for the next day.

Day You Go.
Start the day with a good breakfast. You will need the calories to make more blood after you go and it is more likely that you will feel okay after ward if you have eaten well that day. Also have some water with you all day long so you can get plenty to drink. Drinking 100% fruit juice, milk, decaf sugar free beverages, sports drinks, and even shakes can be good for hydration during this time.Additionally eating fruits (especially those high in water such as watermelon, berries, cherries, plums) and vegetables (especially those high in water such as cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce) are also good ways to get hydrated. Yogurt is another option and making a fruit smoothie can be a great way to get ready to go!

Right Before You Go.
Try to plan when you go to happen shortly after a meal. That way you are ready to go with something in your stomach. This will help keep your blood sugar levels normal even after giving a lot of blood. Drink some water or some juice (100% fruit or vegetable juice). If it isn't time for a meal then eat a snack before you go. Now is the time to choose something that has a fair amount of sugar (natural sugar such as those found in breads, pastas, and fruit are better then the sugars found in dessert like items).

After You Go.
Most places will provide some juice and a snack or cookies. Take the time to sit after you donate and have a cookie or two and a little juice. This will help bring your blood sugar levels back up. It is also a good idea to have a snack available and water so that you can eat something if nothing is provided and you can have water to drink. You will want to continue to drink lots of water to help your body replenish fluids that it has lost. Rest for a short time after you give blood. Then resume daily activities. Many also believe that some light to moderate exercise a few hours after giving blood can help raise your energy levels.

Giving blood saves life and makes you a hero. It doesn't take a lot of time, but planning ahead a little can make it more likely that you will be allowed to give and more likely that you will feel okay after it is said and done. The biggest thing you need to remember is to have a lot of water before and after you go. This will help you stay hydrated.