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Fainting and feeling faint

Thanks for so generously coming in to donate. We’re sorry things didn’t go to plan, but we really appreciate the time you took out of your day.

Why did I feel faint?

When you give blood, your blood pressure can drop or your heart rate can slow down suddenly, and sometimes your body reacts to that. You might feel faint, nauseous, or light-headed or, in some cases, lose consciousness. Just remember that it isn’t uncommon and can happen to anyone - even experienced donors!

Some things can make this reaction more likely, including:

  • Feeling anxious about needles, pain or the sight of blood
  • Standing for long periods after donating
  • Standing too quickly after donating
  • Some blood pressure-lowering medications
  • Hot or warm environment
  • Needing a longer time to donate or having flow issues
  • Reacting to the citrate during a plasma donation

But, sometimes, they can happen for seemingly no reason at all.

Can I still donate after feeling faint?

Yes, unless someone from Lifeblood has told you otherwise. We’d love to see you again! Most donors who come back have a great next donation. See the tips below to help you prepare.

How can I reduce my risk of fainting?

  • Try muscle tensing exercises during your donation
  • Have some more water — on the day before your donation drink 8 glasses of fluid if you’re a woman and 10 if you’re a man, then another 3 glasses in the 3 hours before you come in.
  • Bring a friend to take your mind off things
  • Talk to staff
  • Take your time
  • Avoid standing up for long periods
  • Stay in the donation chair a bit longer to recover
  • Try not to get overheated
  • If you’re giving plasma, ask for calcium tablets at reception

Want to know more? Here’s a video how to prepare for your donation. 

Try muscle tensing exercises during your donation

One of the best (and easiest) ways to stay well during and after your donation is to do muscle tensing exercises. They’ll increase your blood pressure almost immediately, which will help you avoid feeling faint.

Do these exercises before the needle goes in or comes out, and before getting up from the donation chair.

  1. Cross your legs
  2. Squeeze your inner thigh and abdominal muscles
  3. Stretch your ankles

Hold for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times then switch legs.

Ask our staff at your next donation on how to do these exercises, or for an instruction card.

Drink water

On the day before donation, drink:

  • 10 glasses of fluid if you are a man
  • 8 glasses of fluid if you are a woman.

Stay hydrated through the day. In the three hours before donating, drink 3 glasses of fluid (approximately 750 millilitres).
After you register at reception, drink two glasses of water while you wait to go into your interview. These extra two glasses help to increase your blood pressure by stretching your stomach wall. This has the most effect on your blood pressure about 30 minutes afterwards.

Bring a friend or family member

The best experiences are shared! Bring a friend or family member to donate with you to help you stay relaxed and pass the time quickly.

Talk to our staff

Our staff are there to help. If you have any concerns or would just like to have a chat, please speak up! And be sure to let us know what happened last time. The team can keep an eye on you, give you some advice and just make sure everything’s ok.

Take all the time you need

Give yourself plenty of time for your next donation, both before and after. When you donate, you give up to 15 per cent of your blood volume - so your body might need some time to adjust.

We know you’re busy, but try not to rush around or do strenuous exercise before and after your donation. Make sure you stay hydrated and have plenty to eat. Give yourself a well-deserved break!

Stay in the donation chair a bit longer to recover

After finishing your donation, take some time to relax in the donation chair to let your body adjust to the volume loss. It is best to stay for an extra 5 minutes in the chair to make sure you are feeling okay before slowly getting up.

Moving too quickly from a reclined position to an upright position can cause you to feel faint or dizzy. Do some muscle tensing exercises to make sure your blood pressure stays up before leaving the donation chair.

Avoid standing up for long periods and overheating

Overheating or standing up for long periods lowers your blood pressure and increases your risk of feeling faint. So, for about eight hours after you donate, avoid hot showers, strenuous exercises or walking for long periods. Keep drinking plenty of cool fluids, and avoid alcoholic drinks for those eight hours.

If you’re giving plasma, ask for calcium tablets

When you’re giving plasma, a liquid called citrate anticoagulant is added to stop your blood from clotting while the machine separates your red cells from your plasma. When your red blood cells are being returned, they carry with them a tiny amount of citrate. This is not harmful, but it can cause a drop in your calcium levels. Some people experience a metallic taste or numbness and tingling sensations in their lips, and it can also cause you to feel faint.

Taking a few calcium tablets, like QUICK-EZE, can help maintain your calcium levels and reduce your chance of feeling faint. Just ask at reception for some calcium tablets next time you come in for your plasma donation.

Still got questions? Give us a call on 13 14 95.

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