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How does the blood donation process work?

The blood donation process starts when an individual registers to give blood. At the blood donation center the individual is screened. A health history and mini-physical is done. The donor usually gives one pint of whole blood, and afterwards refreshments are provided. The blood is tested for blood type and infectious disease, and then the blood is separated into its components: red blood cells, plasma and platelets. The components are stored until used. Red blood cells can be stored for 42 days, platelets for 5 days and plasma for up to a year.
Donating a unit of blood takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Medical equipment is sterile, used only once, and then discarded. The actual donation process works like this:
1) You will complete donor registration, which includes your name, address, phone number, donor identification number (if you have one), and other related information.
2) You will be asked to show your donor card or other identification.
3) You will be asked some questions about your health, travel history, and lifestyle or risk behaviors. All information is confidential.
4) You will receive a mini “health exam”, including checks for blood pressure, temperature, and pulse. In addition, a drop of blood will be obtained from your finger to make sure that you have enough red blood cells to safely donate.
5) You will proceed to a donor bed where your arm will be cleaned with antiseptic. If you are allergic to iodine, be sure to tell the phlebotomist so an alternate antiseptic may be used.
6) You will have a blood unit and blood specimens drawn.
7) You will receive snacks and beverages while you wait for about 15 minutes after donation. Waiting periods are different in different states.
 
Donating blood is a simple process. Your gift of blood may help three people or more. Donated red blood cells have a shelf-life of up to 42 days. A healthy donor may donate every 56 days.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.