Never Donated Blood? Here's What to Know About the Process to Calm Your Nerves

Someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds. Think: surgeries, car accidents, serious injuries, chronic illness and cancer treatments. And because blood donations dropped to record-low levels during the pandemic, the need for blood is more urgent than ever.

To help, Dr. Oz is leading the #JustMyType Challenge to get as many people as possible to a blood drive and make a life-saving donation.

But what if you've never given blood? It can seem scary and may even give you the heebie jeebies.

The more you know about the process of giving blood, the less scary it becomes. Here's everything you need to know about donating blood so you can calm your nerves.

What Exactly Does It Mean to Donate Blood?

You visit a designated place where a medical professional takes blood from your arm and stores it for later use. It could be given in its original form (whole blood) to patients who've lost a lot of their own. Or it could be separated into its components (red blood cells, platelets, and plasma) for people in many different kinds of situations, such as surgery, cancer treatment or severe burns.

What's the Donation Process?

There are four parts to the process: registration, mini check-up, donation, and snacks.

Yes. Snacks.

You'll complete a form for your personal information like name, address, phone number, etc. You'll be asked to show forms of ID.

Mini Check-Up
In a private setting, you'll answer questions about your health and travel history. Your answers will stay confidential. Your vitals (temperature, blood pressure and pulse) will be taken, and your hemoglobin level will be checked (that's the protein that carries oxygen in your blood).

They ask these questions to make sure you can safely donate blood, and that it is safe for a patient to receive your blood.

A medical professional will do the following:

  1. Cleanse the area of your arm where the needle will be inserted. Typically, with an antiseptic wipe. If you have a preference for which arm they use, let them know.
  2. They will tie a tourniquet around your upper arm. They typically use a blood pressure cuff or rubbed band. This will help your veins fill with more blood, making them easy to see and insert the needle into.
  3. They will take a sterile needle and insert it into the vein. It's attached to a thin, plastic tube, which connects to the bag that will hold the blood. They may ask you to make a fist to help get the blood flowing.
  4. Once the bag is full, the needle is removed and a bandage is put over the spot on your arm.
You'll then head to a separate area while your body adjusts. The staff can keep an eye on you in case you have any kind of reaction (just like how you wait around after getting a shot). You'll enjoy some refreshments — typically a cookie or other snack and something to drink. After about 10 or 15 minutes, you'll leave and continue with your day.

Does It Hurt?

Do you remember the last shot you had? It may feel like that. A little pinch or prick when the needle first goes in, and then it goes away.

How Long Does the Donation Take?

It may take about 10 minutes to fill the bag with blood.

The whole process (from registration to the time you leave) could take around an hour depending on how many people are there.

How Much Blood Are We Talking?

One bag holds about a pint of blood.

Is That A Lot?

The average person has about 10 pints of blood. After a donation, the body starts replacing what was taken out. The plasma is replaced within 24 hours, and the red cells are fully replaced in about four to six weeks.

How Many People Could My Donation Help?

One donation could potentially save the lives of three people.

Where Can I Donate Blood Near Me?

Click the links below to find blood drives in your area through America's Blood Centers and the Red Cross.

America's Blood Centers

Red Cross

There's a first time for everything. The first time giving blood can be scary, but the more you know about it, the less scary it becomes and the more rewarding it is to know you are helping to save lives. Join Dr. Oz and help end this critical blood shortage.

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Personal photos courtesy of Dr.Oz

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Dr. Oz immediately contacted his friends and colleagues and crafted a treatment plan with two of the country's top experts in the field: Richard S. Isaacson, MD, a neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and the founder of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic, and Dr. Rudy Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard and the founder of the "Alzheimer's Genome Project," who co-discovered the first Alzheimer's gene.

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