Guidelines on what to do before and after donating blood

The SANBS aims to collect 3 000 units of blood a day to ensure there is a safe and sufficient blood supply in the health-care system. Picture: Nguyễn Hiệp /Unsplash

The SANBS aims to collect 3 000 units of blood a day to ensure there is a safe and sufficient blood supply in the health-care system. Picture: Nguyễn Hiệp /Unsplash

Published Oct 31, 2023


Blood donation is a selfless act that has the potential to save lives and contribute to the well-being of countless individuals. The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) encourages individuals to donate blood regularly.

The SANBS says less than 1% of South Africans are active blood donors. A unit of blood lasts only 42 days after donation and, for this reason, blood donors need to donate regularly. Donors can give blood as often as every eight weeks.

Knowing what to do before and after donation is essential to ensure donors and recipients a safe and positive experience.

Below, you will find a comprehensive guide to help you determine if you qualify to be a blood donor and advice to ensure you have a good experience during your blood donation.

Before donating blood:

Check if you're eligible

The SANBS has certain criteria for blood donors. You need to be between 16 and 75 years old, weigh more than 50kg and be in good health.

When you go to a donor site, you’ll fill out a questionnaire and have your blood pressure, pulse and haemoglobin levels checked. If you meet all the requirements, you can donate blood.

Stay hydrated

It’s important to drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your donation. This helps keep your body hydrated, increases your blood volume and makes it easier to find your veins.

Eat a nutritious meal

On the day of your donation, make sure to eat a balanced meal with lots of nutrients like iron, vitamins and minerals. You might also be given a snack before or during your donation to prevent feeling light-headed afterwards.

Get enough rest

Make sure you’re well-rested, especially the night before your appointment. This can help reduce the risk of any negative reactions.

Wear comfortable clothing

It’s a good idea to wear loose-fitting clothes with sleeves that can be rolled up easily. This makes it easier for the staff to access your veins and makes the donation process smoother.

After donating blood:

Rest and rehydrate

After your donation, take a moment to sit and rest. You can enjoy the refreshments provided and drink water or juice to rehydrate. Avoid strenuous physical activity for the rest of the day and don’t lift heavy objects with the arm used for donation.

Have a snack

Eating a light snack after donating will help replenish your energy levels. The SANBS provides snacks like biscuits or sandwiches for donors before, during, and after donation.

Avoid alcohol and smoking

It’s best to avoid alcohol and smoking for a few hours after donating blood. The substances can interfere with your recovery.

Monitor your health

Pay attention to how your body feels after donation. If you experience any unusual symptoms like dizziness, nausea or fainting, it's important to inform the SANBS at 0800 119 031.

A member of their medical team will be able to advise you further.

Keep track of future donations:

Ask the staff member about your next donation date. Healthy donors need to wait 56 days between each whole blood donation.

Donations can make a difference

Patients with cancer and leukaemia, those with bone marrow or organ transplants and those who have undergone major surgeries need blood transfusions.

Every unit of blood can save a minimum of three lives. The SANBS aims to collect 3 000 units of blood a day to ensure there is a safe and sufficient blood supply in the health care system.

By following the guidelines, you can have a safe and positive experience while helping others. The SANBS is grateful for the commitment of donors who save lives through blood donation.

If you meet the requirements or have any questions, call the SANBS at 0800 11 9031, visit, or follow it on Twitter (@theSANBS), Facebook (@SANBS), and Instagram (@thesanbs).

The platforms can also help you find your nearest donation site.

Related Topics:

health welfare