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Is donating blood safe?

Donating blood is a very safe process. Each donor’s blood is collected through a new, sterile needle that is used once and then discarded.

More information about what happens on the day of donation.

Occasionally problems may occur when giving blood

Most people feel fine after donating blood. If you feel unwell at any time before, during or after your donation, or if you experience pain, it is very important to tell the staff immediately.

Feeling faint or light headed

Feeling light-headed or experiencing short-lived dizziness, which can be associated with nausea, is a fairly common reaction and it occurs in about 292 of every 10,000 donors (2.92%). Fainting, with loss of consciousness, occurs far less frequently, in about 21 of every 10,000 donors (0.21%).

If you do feel dizzy or unwell, tell a staff member if you are still at the donor centre, sit or lie down immediately until you feel better (this may take up to 30 minutes) then gradually resume your activities. If you feel faint at the donor centre during or after your donation we recommend that you do not drive for at least 6 hours.

If you feel unwell whilst driving it is important to pull over immediately and lie as flat as possible in your reclined seat. You should not get out of the car and walk near the road when feeling faint or dizzy. Ask for help to get home rather than trying to drive again.
Even if you feel faint during or after your donation, you may be able to donate again. It is very important that you prepare yourself for donation.

Minor bruising

Small bruises around the area where the needle was inserted are not uncommon; much more rarely (11 in every 10,000 donations) larger bruises or pain where the needle was inserted may occur.

You can reduce the risk of a large bruise by keeping the bandage on your arm for four hours after donating, and by avoiding heavy lifting and strenuous use of your donation arm for 6-8 hours after donating.

Very occasionally, you may experience bleeding from the needle site – if this happens lift your arm above your shoulder and press on the needle site. Be sure to ask the staff for assistance.

More serious and rare complications of blood donation

Extremely rarely, more serious complications may occur. These injuries usually resolve completely but you may require medical treatment or experience some restriction in your normal activities. These complications include damage to an artery, nerve or tendon at the time the needle is inserted and local swelling or infection at the needle site. These complications occur in less than 5 in every 10,000 donations.

Even more rarely, some donors experience tightness in the chest, chest pain or a rapid pulse. This occurs in 0.8 in every 100,000 donations. If this occurs whilst you are at the donor centre, please tell a member of staff immediately. If you experience these symptoms after you leave the donor centre, you should contact the ambulance service. We would like to hear from you after you have received any treatment you require.

Your health is very important to us. If you feel unwell at any time before, during or after your donation, or you experience pain, it is very important to tell the staff immediately.  Even if you start feeling unwell after you leave the donor centre, please call us on 13 14 95 so that you can receive advice on how to manage your symptoms most effectively.