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Tips for a Successful Blood Donation

Wednesday 29th Aug 2018

Do you want to make sure that you have the best experience of blood donation? Well, scroll on through for some tips and tricks from our donors, doctors and nurses. While you may have heard some of these before, you may not know why they work. Keep in mind that this short list isn’t complete, and even if you follow all these tips, it is possible you may still experience a reaction to donation. Our team are always close by in centre, and you can call us on 13 14 95 to speak with one of our medical experts if you feel unwell after your donation. 

Drink up

When you donate blood, your body will of course lose fluid. It’s up to 13% of your blood volume if you donate blood, and more than this if you donate plasma. Most people adapt very quickly to this. For others, it may take longer to adjust, and your blood pressure may fall. While lower blood pressure is generally good, if your blood pressure falls too low, your heart struggles to pump blood to your brain. This can make you feel tired, dizzy, and even blurry-eyed. 

Drinking extra water before your donation means that there will be spare fluid in your system. It also means your blood will flow more easily and can make your donation go by more quickly.

We recommend that you have plenty of fluids the day before your donation — eight glasses if you’re a woman or ten if you’re a man. Then, have another three glasses of water in the three hours before your donation. If you're giving whole blood, we also recommend an extra two glasses when you arrive.

Eat something salty

While eating too many salty foods can be bad for you, eating a few salty snacks before your donation can help you recover more quickly. As we know, your body needs fluids to keep working.  By eating a salty snack before donation, you’ll be helping your body hold on to fluids after your donation because salt reduces the amount of fluid lost by your kidneys. It also makes you thirsty, so you are more likely to drink more and replace what you lost during donation.. We recommend that you eat something salty in the 24 hours before you donate, like pretzels. Just try not to eat anything too fatty.  

Tense your muscles

Our research team, with the help of our donors and donor centre teams, have found that tensing certain muscles during donation can help it be drama-free. Fainting is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. By doing muscle-tensingexercises, you can help your body maintain your blood pressure. When you’re on the donation bed, cross one leg over the other, tense your legs and abdomen, and hold for five counts. Repeat this five times, then switch legs. We call this "applied muscle tension". When you do these exercises (especially your calf and thigh muscles) the muscles squeeze blood out of the veins in your legs back to your heart.

This is a nifty little trick even used by defence pilots to prevent them from fainting during extreme G-force. For best results, make sure to follow the instructions of your nurse as they guide you through these exercises.


Thijsen, A, & Masser, B. (2017). Vasovagal reactions in blood donors: risks, prevention and management. Transfusion Medicine.