giving blood

Lie down, roll up your sleeve, and do something heroic. Every two seconds, someone needs blood in the United States. Your pint-size donation can help up to three people — perhaps saving the life of a teen injured in an auto accident, helping a mom battle cancer, or aiding a child with sickle cell anemia.

If you’re a first-time donor, now is the perfect time to give. There’s no substitute for human blood and its shelf life is limited, which creates a constant need to replenish supplies at hospitals, cancer centers, and clinics. Unfortunately, the American Red Cross says that only 38 percent of all Americans are eligible to give — and less than 10 percent actually do.

In general, blood donors should:


  • Be in good general health and feel good. Don’t donate when you’re not at your best.
  • Be at least 17 years of age in most states. (Some states allow those who are 16 to donate with parental consent.)
  • Weigh at least 110 lbs. (There are additional requirements for donors under 18.)

Double red blood cell and platelet donors have other special requirements. And, certain groups are not eligible to donate because of the risk of blood-borne infections.

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What to Expect During Blood Donation

To be sure that it’s safe for you to donate — and for others to receive — your blood, you’ll first be asked to provide basic information about your medical history and lifestyle. All information is strictly confidential. A simple finger prick will test for iron levels, and your temperature, heart rate, and other vitals will be taken. You’ll also be asked to review some educational material.

Donating usually takes 45 minutes to an hour; giving platelets takes about 2 hours. But your actual time spent giving is just about 10 minutes — and during the last 15 minutes, you’ll relax with a well-deserved snack. The process is safe, sterile, and involves little or no discomfort.

RELATED: What is Hemophilia?

Tips For All Donors

  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing; your sleeves should be easy to raise above the elbow.
  • Eat a healthy meal about three hours before donating:

— Avoid fatty foods like ice cream or fries, which can make testing of blood samples difficult.

— Reach instead for foods that are high in iron, like lean red meat, raisins, and spinach.

  • Drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids like water or juice the night before and the day of donating.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before giving blood.
  • Slip on your earbuds and relax with your favorite mix, kick back with a book, or get a friend to donate with you and enjoy the conversation!
  • Avoid exercising or strenuous physical activity for the rest of the day.

Lend a hand to someone just your type by becoming a donor today. The American Red Cross is the nation’s largest supplier of blood. In the Pittsburgh area, Central Blood Bank operates more than 25 convenient donor locations.


  • Type O (universal donor) is the most frequently requested type by hospitals.
  • All donations are tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis, and other infectious diseases before being released to patients.
  • There are more than 9 million donors each year in the United States.
  • One victim of a car accident can require as many as 100 pints.
  • A healthy donor can give every 56 days, or six times a year; platelets can be donated up to 24 times a year.

Source: American Red Cross

Don’t feel like you have to wait for a blood drive to donate blood. Someone somewhere needs it and you can save a life. Visit the Central Blood Bank online to find a location near you where you can donate blood.

About Trauma & Emergency Medicine

Emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye or in a heartbeat. And when they do, minutes matter. UPMC’s Emergency Medicine and Trauma Care services are ready to provide world-class care, no matter how serious your emergency. All our Emergency Departments have a full-time staff of emergency specialists at the ready 24 hours a day. We use advanced technology to diagnose and treat your condition and coordinate with your doctor to provide the best care possible. We also have specialized trauma care at several of our hospitals. If you or a loved one is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest Emergency Department.