Perhaps you are responding to a tragedy. Or perhaps your life has been touched by someone who needs a blood transfusion. Whatever the case, you have decided to give blood. Now it is critical to understand how to prepare for this undertaking. There are steps to take before, during and after donation to ensure success.

Before Donating

Donating blood does not begin the moment you lie down and hand your arm over. There are several steps you can take in the weeks leading up to your blood donation that can help ensure not only your health, but the chance of providing a useable donation. Because donating blood lowers your iron stores, you should begin building up your iron several weeks before you donate rather than just eating foods high in iron the day of donation. You also want to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen in order to keep yourself as healthy as possible.

As you near closer to the day of your blood donation there are several important tips to keep in mind. It is highly recommended that you have a full night’s sleep of between seven to nine hours the night before your donation. This will help you to feel more alert when you give blood, which will in turn reduce the risk of feeling unwell. Make sure to drink at least sixteen ounces of fluid before you donate. Water is the most recommended fluid to drink, but Gatorade or an electrolyte drink works as well. Avoid alcohol for 48 hours before your donation.

While Donating

The American Red Cross suggests that you relax and talk to other donors while you donate. You are going to be sitting or lying for at least fifteen minutes, so make the most of it and relax!  You will want to wear clothing with sleeves that can easily be rolled up above the elbow. Let the person taking your blood know if you have a preferred arm and show them any good veins that have been used successfully in the past to draw blood.

After Donating

Take it easy! After donating blood, be sure to stick around and have a drink and a snack provided by the site. This is important in keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure levels normal. Do not do any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for the rest of the day. This could cause you to become dizzy or lightheaded. Avoid drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours after you have donated. Your body is still recovering.

Now that you have made the selfless decision the donate blood, you want to prepare the best you can. Follow the suggestions above and you should have a successful donation!