Keeping you safe

Illustration of a woman holding a red tick for donating blood
Know the essentials

We’ve pulled out all the stops to make sure donating blood is a really safe process. 

  • Most people have between 4.5 and 5L of blood in their body, so a blood donation is usually less than 10% of that.
     
  • If that sounds like a lot to you, there’s nothing to worry about. Your body restores the lost blood quickly. Whether you give blood or not, your body constantly makes new blood to replace the old. Cool, huh? 
     
  • We also have restrictions on how often you can donate, so you can’t give more than is healthy. 
     
  • Each donor’s blood is collected using a new, sterile needle that’s used only once. 
Icon of two people holding hands for Lifeblood
You're in good hands

Most people feel fine during and after their donation: 

Answering your questions

When I give plasma, my blood goes through plastic tubing and back to me. Is that safe?

Extremely. We only use the tubing and bags once, so it's all brand new for your donation. 

We use the same plasticiser used in many other medical devices and procedures, called Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate — but we’ll just call it DEHP. It's been used in medical procedures for more than 40 years with no reports of negative side effects. 

In fact, no toxic effects have been seen in humans. However, animal studies with very high doses of DEHP have shown development and reproduction issues. 

Phthalates including DEHP are in a lot of things we come into contact with every day, including food, air, water, containers, flooring, and more. So, you may be exposed to small amounts of DEHP when you donate plasma or platelets, but it’s less than you’re normally in contact with day to day. We make sure vulnerable groups (like pregnant women) don’t donate, and our processes are designed to minimise your exposure.  

We know some people have concerns, so we’re keeping a close eye on research into alternatives. For now, though, DEHP is necessary to improve the strength, consistency and effectiveness of the equipment used to collect and hold blood. 

Possible side-effects

Bruising

Small bruises around where the needle was inserted are pretty normal and nothing to worry about. Much more rarely, larger bruises or pain may occur. They might look scary, but they’re usually harmless and all bruises will go away in a couple of days. 

It can’t always be prevented, but you can reduce the risk of bruising by keeping the bandage on your arm for 4 hours after donating, and by avoiding heavy lifting and strenuous use of your arm for the next 24 hours. 

If your bruise is causing any kind of discomfort: 

  • Hold a cold pack wrapped in a clean cloth over the bruise. Only do this for 15 minutes at a time, 3-4 times in the first 24 hours. 
  • After 24 hours, apply a hot pack wrapped in a clean cloth. Do this for 15 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day. 
  • Use mild pain relievers like paracetamol (not aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen). 

If your bruise is causing severe pain, numbness, inflammation, stiffness or swelling, call us on 13 14 95 to talk to one of our medical officers. 

Feeling unwell

It’s really rare, but some people feel unwell during or after a donation. If you do, or if you experience any pain, it’s really important that you tell a staff member immediately. 

If you feel unwell while donating, our team members will be with you every step of the way, making sure you’re feeling great. They’ll make a note and follow-up if you were uncomfortable or unwell at any point, so don’t be afraid to speak up. 

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 a staff member immediately.

If you feel unwell after you’ve left the donor centre, give us a call on 13 14 95 and we can let you know what to do and record what happened. 

That information will also help next time you come in. We'll look into what happened and, where possible, improve things for next time. 

Any complications

There can be complications, but they’re extremely rare and usually resolve completely. You may need medical treatment, or to restrict your normal activities while they do. 

This may include damage to an artery, nerve or tendon and local swelling or infection at the needle site. This sort of problem occurs 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. It only happens to a really small number of people (less than 0.00001%), but if it happens to you while you’re still in the donor centre, please tell a member of staff immediately. If you have these symptoms after you leave, call 000

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Can I give blood?

We ask lots of questions to find out if it's safe for you to donate blood, and if there is any risk of infection that could be passed on.

Check your eligibility
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With safety, we think about the patients who receive the blood, too. We test every donation to make sure any serious infections can’t be passed on.

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