Becoming a blood donor is an important personal decision.
Below is some important information about blood donation and guidance regarding preparing for the blood donation process which parents and students should read.
We encourage you to discuss this with your son or daughter.
Why become a donor?
Blood donation is an important volunteer activity in the community. Each blood donation can be separated into three components, and has the potential to save as many as three lives.
How old do you have to be to donate?
Your son or daughter must be 16 years old and weigh at least 50kg to be eligible to donate. In Queensland and WA, donors under the age of 18 years must have written parental consent.
In other states parent consent is not required.
Is blood donation safe?
Donating blood is a safe procedure using single-use sterile needles and supplies. A questionnaire, blood pressure and a haemoglobin test ahead of the donation help ensure that your son or daughter is healthy enough to donate. Blood Donor Centre staff observe donors, monitoring progress of the donation and the donor’s safety.
Can there be any side effects from donating?
Most people feel fine after donating blood, but some may experience reactions. Most reactions are mild and can include small bruises or feeling faint.
- Fainting and feeling faint is more common in young and inexperienced donors, and in donors with low body weight. Up to 15% of teenage girls and 10% of teenage boys experience short-lived dizziness during or after donating, and 1% of boys and 2% of girls faint, with brief loss of consciousness. Rarely, a donor may be injured whilst falling as a result of fainting.
- Our staff are fully trained to work with first-time and younger blood donors, and to respond to any reactions
- A smaller number of young donors (up to one in 100 teenage girls and one in 500 teenage boys) can experience dizziness or fainting up to eight hours after leaving the donor centre. For this reason we strongly advise that young donors, especially first-time donors, do not drive for eight hours after they donate.
Youth donors generally have lower baseline iron stores than adults and have increased iron requirements for growth and development. Iron is removed with each blood donation and hence the risk of blood donation contributing to iron deficiency increases with frequent donation.
Should teenagers avoid donating at exam time?
We suggest that students do not donate in the days before exams or important tests. Although most people are fine following donation, it is better not to have any distractions during such an important time.
Should donors avoid exercise?
Strenuous exercise is not recommended for 12 hours after blood donation. As a precaution, we ask that students do not donate on the day of a competition or strenuous training or practice. High-performance, competitive athletes may notice a marginal decrease in their exercise tolerance or performance for about one week after donation.
How can I help prepare my son or daughter for blood donation?
The following simple steps will help ensure teenagers have a positive experience when they donate, and minimise the risk of a reaction. Donors should:
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before donation – eight hours is ideal
- Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch on the day of donation
- Drink plenty of water:
- 3 good-sized glasses in the 3 hours before their appointment; &
- another 350-500ml when they arrive at the Donor Centre immediately before donation
- Avoid strenuous exercise on the day of their appointment
- Wear comfortable clothing with sleeves that can be easily raised above the elbow.
- Regular donors should maintain a healthy diet which is high in iron
Is there anything else that might help?
In the six to eight hours after their donation, it is important that your son or daughter:
- Stays sitting down after the donation for 20 minutes, and has a salty snack and a cool drink
- Avoids standing for long periods of time, especially in the heat
- Continues to drink plenty of cool drinks for the rest of the day
- Does not skip meals
- Avoids alcohol
- Avoids driving
What information do you need from donors?
Every donor is asked specific questions about their health history. This information helps ensure the safety of the blood donor and the blood recipient. These questions are asked privately and are completely confidential. The questionnaire includes questions about general health, medication use, sexual behaviour and travel.
Is the blood tested?
Every blood donation is tested for HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), hepatitis B, hepatitis C and some other infectious diseases. The tests are very sensitive and detect most infections. We will inform your son or daughter of any test results which disqualify them from donation. We maintain confidentiality of information we obtain from a donor and do not discuss with, or release a donor’s confidential information to, his or her parents without the donor’s consent.
We thank you for your support of the Blood Service and encourage you to discuss the information in this document with your son or daughter and assist them should they choose to become a blood donor.