Donating blood is one of the easiest ways I can think of to give to charity -- it doesn't cost a thing, takes just a little bit of time, and goes to a very worthy cause.
I donated blood for years before I became ineligible for medical reasons. I even recruited my husband to donate blood back when we were dating, and 15+ years later, he still donates blood as often as he's able.
When she's not jetting off to Costa Rica or chasing after Brody Jenner, Kristin Cavallari of MTV's The Hills donates blood. Somewhere between Showtime's Nurse Jackie shoots and filming the Twilight movie franchise, Eclipse vampire Peter Facinelli finds time to donate blood. Even Penn Jillette donates blood.
The next time you feel the urge to do good, try donating blood. Depending on where you live, you may even score a celebrity sighting during the process.
According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone needs blood, but only a small percentage of the eligible population donates blood. All blood types are needed, and donors must be in general good health, weigh at least 110 pounds, and be at least 17 years old.
Ready to donate blood? Here's what you can expect:
Before blood donation:
• Maintain a healthy iron level in your diet (eat iron-rich foods).
• Get a good night's sleep the night before.
• Drink an extra 16 oz. of water before the donation.
• Eat a healthy meal before your donation, but avoid fatty foods, because tests for infections done on all donated blood can be affected by fats that appear in your blood for several hours after eating fatty foods.
During blood donation (the actual donation takes about 8 to 10 minutes):
• Remember to bring your donor card, driver's license or two other forms of ID, as well as a list of medications and OTC medicine you take.
• Each time you donate, you will be asked some questions during a private and confidential interview about your health history and places you have traveled.
• Your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin level will be checked.
• Wear clothing with sleeves that can be rolled above the elbow.
• Let the phlebotomist know if you have a preferred arm and show the staff any good veins that have been used successfully in the past to draw blood.
After blood donation:
• Have a snack and drink in the refreshments area immediately after donating.
• Drink plenty of fluids over the next 24 to 48 hours to replenish any fluids lost during donation.
• Avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for about five hours after donation.
• If you feel light-headed, lie down, preferably with feet elevated, until the feeling passes.
• In rare cases when bleeding occurs after removing the bandage, apply pressure to the site and raise your arm for three to five minutes. If bleeding or bruising occurs under the skin, apply a cold pack to the area periodically during the first 24 hours.
• If for any reason something doesn't feel right, call the Red Cross and let them know.
You can make a blood donation appointment online or call the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS.
Do you donate blood?