Common blood donation myths debunked

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Less than 1% of South Africans are active blood donors. If you’re hesitant to become a donor because of misinformation, read our article that debunks some common blood donation myths.

Can you get infected with COVID-19 if you donate blood? Are donor sites safe during the pandemic? Will you lose too much blood as a donor?

Here are answers to some frequently-asked questions about blood donations.

Myth: I’ll faint or get sick if I donate blood

Truth: Most people feel the same way they did before donating. You may feel dizzy, fatigued or nauseous, as your blood pressure temporarily goes down when you donate. If you do feel faint, sit down, drink or eat something and lie down with your legs elevated.

Myth: Donor centres aren’t safe during the pandemic

Truth: According to the South African Blood Donation Services (SANBS), COVID-19 protocols are strictly adhered to at both mobile and fixed donor sites. This includes washing hands with warm water and soap, sanitising and social distancing. If you have any symptoms of infection, such as a runny nose, a cough, fever or shortness of breath, you should delay donating until you’ve recovered.

Myth: You can contract COVID-19 from blood donation

Truth: Currently, there is no evidence that you can contract COVID-19 through blood donation or a blood transfusion. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, which means infection happens through droplets expelled when someone coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings or breathes heavily. You can also catch it from touching a contaminated surface. If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, you can’t donate blood until you’ve fully recovered and your doctor has cleared you. You also can’t contract HIV/Aids since new, sterile needles are used for each donor.

Myth: I won’t have enough blood left if I donate

Truth: An average adult has up to 5.5 litres of blood in their body. Only 475 to 500ml of blood is drawn when you donate blood, which is only a tenth of how much you may have in your system. What’s more, your body can easily replenish this amount within a few hours after donating, once you’ve hydrated.

Myth: I can’t donate if I’ve used any medication

Truth: Generally, taking medication won’t disqualify you from donating, but it depends on the kind of medication you’re using. For example, it’s okay to donate if you take blood pressure medication (for more than four weeks). If you want to be sure, bring your medication with you to check with the nurse or call ahead to ask.

Myth: Pregnant women can donate blood

Truth: Pregnant women can’t donate blood. You can only donate three months after giving birth, whether naturally or through a caesarean section. If you are nursing, you can only donate once your baby has stopped breastfeeding.

Blood donation checklist

Now that we’ve debunked these myths, here are the criteria for blood donation:

  • you are between the ages of 16 and 75
  • you weigh a minimum of 50kg
  • you aren’t iron-deficient
  • you haven’t had a tattoo in the 6 months prior to donation
  • you haven’t had a piercing in the last 3 months
  • you haven’t taken antibiotics within seven days of planned donation day
  • you’ve been outside a malaria high-risk area for at least 4 weeks

For more blood donation-related advice, read this helpful article:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


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