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Occasionally, large bruises may develop after you donate. This may appear some way from the donation site and may not appear until a day or two after you donate. Although bruising can look quite serious, it is usually harmless and disperses with time. It may take up to 2 weeks for it to disappear altogether.

What is bruising?

Bruising is caused by bleeding under the skin. Bruising occurs after blood donation when:

  • the needle is taken out of the arm, bleeding will continue until the small hole in the vein closes up
  • the donation needle is inserted into the arm, damage to the other side of the vein may occur, causing a small hole through which blood can leak. This is not always seen during the donation but may become apparent afterwards.
  • there are tiny fragile blood vessels running just under the skin, as well as the larger veins from which blood donation is obtained. When the donation needle is inserted into the arm, one of these small vessels may be damaged and bleeding occurs. It is impossible to predict this, as such vessels are not usually visible.

Can bruising be prevented?

  • While bruising can’t always be prevented, the size of a bruise can be minimised by applying pressure over the donation area, until bleeding stops. You should keep your bandage on for 4 hours after you donate.
  • If a bruise occurs during the donation, we will stop the donation to prevent the bruise worsening. If your donation is slower than usual, you are more likely to develop a bruise.Very occassionally, a donor's veins may not be large enough and it may be impossible to proceed with the donation. It is better not to attempt to make a donation in this situation as the risk of severe bruising is high.

What can you do if you develop a bruise?

  • Apply a cold pack to the area can help to relieve any pain or discomfort. Always wrap cold packs in a clean dry cloth before applying to the bruise and do not use for longer than 15 minutes at a time. Only use cold packs for the first 24 hours after the bruise develops.
  • After the first 24 hours, you may find that a hot pack over the bruised area reduces discomfort. Use for about 15 minutes 2-3 times a day. Always take care to wrap the pack to avoid burning yourself.
  • If you require more pain relief, we recommend taking paracetamol (according to the manufacturer’s instructions) and avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen, for the first 24 hours.
  • You should avoid heavy lifting and strenous repetitive arm movements for a few days as this may cause pain in your arm. However, gentle movement is recommended whilst the bruise is healing. This will help the bruise to disperse.

If you experience any of the following, you should seek further help

  • severe pain
  • numbness or persistent ‘pins and needles’ in the arm, hand or fingers
  • stiffness in your hand and fingers or if you hand and fingers appear pale or develop a bluish discoloration
  • swelling which is large or increasing in size
  • painful redness or inflammation

If any of these occur, or if you are worried, you can obtain advice from one of our medical officers by calling 13 14 95.

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