Post-Blood Donation Fainting

Yesterday, I fainted.

It was a humiliating experience for me because I was in church—the Philippine General Hospital Chapel. It was not the first time I fainted inside a church. I think it is my third or fourth time already. It usually happens when the church is really crowded and it gets so hot that I start feeling dizzy. But yesterday, when I felt dizzy, I did not mind the feeling. My stomach then started to ache.

It was then during the Eucharist Prayer that I suddenly blacked out and fainted. I literally cannot see a thing. I thought I was falling asleep… but then I felt that several hands were holding and touching me. They were trying to keep me standing up… and they let me sit. I remember Betti asking if I wanted water. I said NO… CR. I just wanted to sit down. Betti then went with me to the CR. All the while, I felt like my knees turned to jelly. I had a hard time standing up and my vision still has some hazy darkness to it. I cannot remember ever feeling that way before. It was the longest duration of fainting I have ever had. We then went to the Chaplain house where they let me use the bathroom. (Betti was supporting me all the way… I do not know what I could have done without her. Thanks Betti!) In it I was able to sit and relax. I placed my head in between my knees. Then slowly I lifted my head and things started to turn white and colorful—back to their original color. Betti gave me tissue and a mug of water. I washed my face. And I sat for a while. When I felt a little better, we went back to mass. It was the Communion Rite already. After receiving the body of Christ, we took our place near the exit now. But then I started feeling dizzy again so I looked for a chair and sat on it. The mass ended and Gem went to greet us and ask if I was already feeling better. I told them I am really hungry but I need to sit down for a while. After a few minutes, Betti and I started walking back to the office.

Now safely in the office, I ate my lunch and lied down on the sofa. I was able to sleep afterwards. Thank God. 🙂

After that, I pondered on the whys and hows of what happened. And then I realized that the major cause of my fainting was that I was not able to eat and drink immediately after donating blood. Of course there are several other factors involved.

So now here are some reasons why people faint after giving blood and ways to prevent it… and them some other information that will be really helpful to those who will be donating in the future. 🙂

Why do some people faint when they give blood?

According to Men’s Health magazine:
“First, there’s a drop in blood pressure (you just gave up a pint).
Second, there’s emotional stress (blood loss triggers a fight-or-flight response, which directs blood to your muscles, not your brain).
And third, standing up quickly drains blood from your head.”

What can I do to prevent fainting after giving blood?

Follow the instructions of the nurse who drew your blood. Even if you feel great, lie around for awhile. Then sit up slowly, sit for awhile, then stand up slowly.

According to Men’s Health magazine:
“If you feel woozy after giving blood, you’re no wimp. About 150,000 people faint or come close to fainting each year. It’s a physiological phenomenon you can counteract by drinking 16 ounces of water about a half hour before giving blood. The water slows heart rate and improves blood flow, especially to the brain.”

How long does it take to donate?

For me it took around 30 minutes. First you will be asked to fill out the blood donation questionnaire and form to see if you are okay to donate. Then comes the physical exam. Then the testing for hematocrit. 🙂 If everything is A-okay, you will then be able to donate blood.

What are the rules about who can donate?

You can read most of the donor eligibility guidelines in advance at:
http://www.redcross.org/services/biomed/0,1082,0_557_,00.html

Remember, the blood donation center you go to may have more rules or some different rules. Here are a few of the commonly asked about eligibility rules:

You must be at least 18 years old to donate to the general blood supply. (If underaged, parental consent is required.) Also, you must weight 110 pounds to be able to donate 400-450 mL of blood. If less than 110 pounds, you will still be eligible to donate but only up to 250 mL.

Women taking birth control pills are acceptable.

Wait 12 months following a human bite, if it broke the skin.

In almost all cases, medications will not disqualify you as a blood donor. Your eligibility will be based on the reason that the medication was prescribed. As long as the condition is under control and you are healthy, blood donation is usually permitted. Some exceptions include:

Wait 2 days after finishing antibiotics for an infection (bacterial or viral).

Acceptable two weeks after starting insulin.

Women may donate during their period if feeling well on the day of donation.

Wait 12 months after a tattoo.

How do they get the blood out of you?

They will poke you twice, once in a finger to get a drop of blood for an initial test, then when they draw your blood donation.

Okay, yes, this is when it hurts a little, but just for a few seconds. While you lie down on a very large well-padded lounge chair, the nurse puts a needle in a vein in your arm. No, the needle is not the size of a drainpipe.

For some people, if you are warm the vein is easier to find, so if a nurse has had trouble finding yours, keep a sweater on next time.

Once the needle is in place it doesn’t really hurt and you might not even notice it. Then, when the nurse tells you to, you start squeezing something like a rubber ball that they give you once every five seconds. It takes about ten minutes to pump out a pint. Racing to pump blood faster than your friend at the next table is not advised.

There will be one or more nurses in the room the whole time you and other people are donating. If it is your first time they pay special attention to you.

How can I get enough iron in my blood to be able to donate blood?

5% of blood donors are temporarily deferred because their hemocrit, the pre-donation test for anemia, was below the recommended 38% minimum. A common cause is a diet poor in iron. It can usually be corrected by increasing the amount of iron-rich food in your diet.

Iron-rich foods include dried beans (cooked garbanzos, kidney, soybean (tofu) lentils), shellfish-fish (clams, oysters, scallops, shrimp, tuna, sardines, mackerel), nuts (and peanut butter), organ foods (especially liver), meats (lean beef, chicken, turkey) and leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lettuce).

What precautions should I take after donating blood?

From the Philippine National Red Cross:

The blood sample extracted from you will be initially screened to determine your hematocrit level and blood type.

You may take a light, low fat snack/meal.  Avoid eating heartily.

Leave the dressing over the venipuncture site/s for at least 3 hours but not more than 12 hours.

Drink at least a full cup of water or juice before leaving the Donor Room.  Increase your fluid intake over the next 48 hours.

Do not smoke for at least 2 hours after donating blood and do not take alcoholic drinks (e.g., beer) for the next 12 hours.

If you feel faint, dizzy, too cold, or suddenly weak, place your head down between your knees.

Avoid lifting heavy objects to prevent bruising or discoloration of the venipuncture site/s.  (Bruising or discoloration will disappear in a few days.)

We would be glad to see you after three (3) months (for male donors) or six (6) months (for female donors) for another donation, when your new cells have completely matured.

From the internet:

“After donating, please:
…. Do not lift or carry heavy objects today. Do not do strenuous exercise today… Drink extra liquids the rest of the day. Eat a hearty meal within 4 hours.”

“Be sure to take the following precautions:
Drink an extra four glasses (8 ounces each) of non-alcoholic liquids…Because you could experience dizziness or loss of strength, use caution if you plan to do anything that could put you or others at risk of harm. For any hazardous occupation or hobby, follow applicable safety recommendations regarding your return to these activities following a blood donation.”

Any donation facility will give you a personal number to identify your donation. If you remember important health information that you may have not given, or if you get sick or otherwise decide your blood may not be safe to give to another person, you can call the toll free number on the info page they will give you.

A British website warned:
“•People who smoke soon after giving blood are more likely to feel the effects of nicotine and therefore faint.
•People who take alcohol within a few hours of giving blood are more likely to feel faint because alcohol dilates the blood vessels. This causes less blood to be available to circulate to the brain leading to dizziness and fainting.
•Being in a hot room also causes the blood vessels to dilate and thus has a similar effect to alcohol.
•Rushing about, or vigorous exercise can also produce similar effects.
•Missing meals and not replacing fluids means a delay in the recovery from blood donation.
•Standing still for long periods of time can lead to pooling of blood in the legs, a situation similar to soldiers on parade. This reduces the amount of blood available to the brain.
If you rush about, miss a meal, have a ‘liquid lunch’, a cigarette, or get overheated you may feel faint even if you gave blood several hours ago.”

Aren’t there lots of people who give blood?

As of a 2007 study in TRANSFUSION, only 37 percent of the people in the United States are eligible to donate blood.

Previous studies show that only about 5% of eligible healthy donors give blood each year. Sometimes we have shortages regularly in many areas of the U.S. I get phone calls from the local blood bank asking me to donate again because they are sometimes down to a half day blood supply.

If every donor gave only one more time yearly,
we would not have blood supply problems.
How often can I donate blood?

If you don’t change your life in a way that could prevent you from donating, you can safely donate every eight weeks.

Who gets blood donations?

Every three seconds, someone needs blood. People donate a unit of blood, about a pint. Usually each unit of whole blood is separated into various components, such as red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitated AHF (antihemophilic factor). Each component generally is given to a different person according to their needs.

Needs include: in a car accident up to 50 units of blood; bone marrow transplant 20 units of blood, 120 units of plasma; organ transplant 40 units of blood, 30 units of platelets, 25 units of plasma; burns 6 units of platelets; heart surgery 6 units of blood. It is not unusual for young leukemia patients to need eight units of blood a week.

Red blood cells have a 42-day shelf life and platelets only 5 days, so the supply must be constantly replaced. From a Red Cross leaflet:

“As soon as 24 hours after donating, your blood could be helping patients. Your blood’s plasma might be saving a young hemophiliac, your platelets might be helping a cancer patient, while your white blood cells might be helping a newborn fight a serious infection.”

More than 75 percent of Americans reaching age 72 will require a blood transfusion sometime in their lifetimes. More than 95 percent of Americans will have a relative or friend who will need blood.

Is it true that donating blood can make me healthier?

When a person donates blood, his/her bone marrow is stimulated to produce new red cells. This will make the blood-forming organs function more effectively and activate the cells.

A Red Cross donor is given a Blood Donor Card.  With this card, the donor will be given priority in case he/she needs blood.

Prospective donors who submit themselves to the procedure will be examined by a physician for free.  He/she will also know his/her blood type and whether he/she is anemic or not.  Donors will be informed of diseases detected in the blood as a result of the screening tests.

An article at A Second Opinion Medical said, in part:

“We all know giving blood helps others, but did you know donating blood is also a healthy habit for yourself?

Before donating blood, everyone must pass a mini-physical and a medical history examination. During the physical, your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and your hematocrit level (the level of red cells in your blood) are checked. Sometimes physical problems such as high blood pressure are found during a blood donation mini-physical. So donating blood can be a way to keep a check on your own health while helping others.
Preliminary studies also found that heart attacks and other cardiac problems were less common in men who had donated blood compared to men who had not. The two studies involved over 6,500 men and were conducted by the University of Kansas and the University of Kuopio in Finland. Researchers believe by giving blood, men — and post-menopausal women — rid their bodies of excessive iron, which is thought to contribute to heart disease. While the medical community is still not certain if a link exists between blood donation and reduced risk of heart attack, giving blood certainly doesn’t harm a donor and helps patients who need blood.”

From Science Daily:

Men Who Donate Blood May Reduce Risk Of Heart Disease, According To KU Medical Center Study
Story by Rosemary Hope
“KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Men who donate blood may reduce their risk of heart disease by up to 30 percent, according to a study led by David Meyers, M.D., professor of internal medicine and preventive medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The study, “Possible association of a reduction in vascular events with blood donation,” is published in the August issue of the journal Heart. The study supports the “iron hypothesis” which suggests that women are protected from atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, because they have lower body stores of iron than men. Through menstrual blood loss, women have one-half the iron stores and suffer about one-half the heart attacks and deaths from heart disease as men of similar age.

“What this means for men is – if you donate blood, in a sense you can become a virtual woman and protect yourself from heart disease,” said Meyers. “We have identified another reason for blood donation, beyond altruism, for men.”

That’s it! 🙂 Hope I was able to help you… SAVE LIVES, DONATE BLOOD. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Post-Blood Donation Fainting

  1. KIKAY KATITAY December 9, 2009 at 12:20 pm Reply

    OMG! Katakot! Good thing you were with Betti. Don't forget to bring a fan and bottled water wherever you go, especially sa mga crowded places. Buti na lang talaga may kasama ka, what if wala diba? :O Nako wag naman sana! Btw, this reminded me of Ali's experience about 6 years ago. Nasa barber shop sya around 2pm. Habang ginugupitan daw siya bigla na lang daw nag-black out and ayun nga nahilo. Tapos narinig pa daw nya yung sigaw ng isang babae, "Hay ano na nangyayari dyaaan?!" Then yung barber na nataranta, "Nah! Nah! Naaah!" Then totally black out. Pagkagising daw nya nasa sofa pala siya, na yung sofa mas mahaba pa yung legs niya! Can't help but LOOOL pag naaalala ko! =)) =))Imagine the scene and everything na nagawa nya! =)) Basta soooper funneeeh!Tapos after a month pagbalik nya dun, namukhaan daw sya ng barber and nagulat. Parang hesitant na gupitan sya then kitang-kita mo daw sa reaction/actions ng barber na reding-ready just in case himatayin na naman daw sya. =))Then after a month ulit, naghanap na sya ng ibang barber shop kasi naiilang and nahihiya na daw sya. =))LOOOOOOOL! =)))))

  2. Jean Monique Sanchez December 11, 2009 at 1:32 pm Reply

    Hahaha! Natawa naman ako kay Al! I can imagine! :DOnga, I'm really thankful that I was with Betti. Hehe. I can't imagine kung ano na nangyari sakin if ever it happened while I was walking along the streets here. Baka nakidnap na ko or nanakawan. :(Anyway, I'll catch up with you later… I'll be leaving for Baguio tonight! 😀

  3. Joanna Chua December 13, 2009 at 7:55 pm Reply

    muntik na ko magfaint nung nagdonate ako last week. after kasi ako nagdonate may biopharm lab ako. tas bumiyahe ako papuntang diliman.

  4. Jean Monique Sanchez December 14, 2009 at 5:31 pm Reply

    Buti na ang nakaupo ka naman sa byahe. 🙂 Kung matagal kang nakatayo, malamang nagfaint ka rin…

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