All about blood donation

Frequently Asked Questions

It allows us to gauge whether you are healthy enough to donate, and gives us a good indication of whether your blood is safe for donation purposes.

Yes. In fact, it's absolutely essential that you do. You will not be able to donate unless you have eaten a substantial meal three to four hours before donation. It is also advisable to up your non-alcoholic fluid intake on the day, both before and after donation.

The waiting period between whole blood donations is 56 days, which means that you can give blood every two months. Women of childbearing age should not donate more than four times per year. Platelet donors can donate up to once a month.

Absolutely not. All needles and equipment are new, sterile and disposable. All needles are sealed and used only once.

It is the time from which a person is infected with HIV (or other viruses) until the time when the virus can be detected in blood tests. The danger is that although a person tests “negative” during this period, the virus is still in their blood and can theoretically be passed on to a patient through their blood donation. Due to the new technology we’re using (NAT testing), which tests for the DNA of the virus, the window period has been reduced to 5 – 11 days.

No. We interview our donors extensively and ask people who have been involved in high-risk behaviour not to donate blood for up to six months.

There has never been a policy of racial profiling in the Western Cape. We collect and distribute blood/blood products without discrimination. As long as people conform to donation criteria, we will accept them as donors.

Yes, if you are feeling well.

No. Pregnant or nursing mothers should not give blood until six months after the baby's birth or three months after the baby is weaned.

The entire donation process takes about 20-30 minutes, questionnaire and pre-examination included. The actual donation takes only ten minutes.

You can easily fix this with an iron supplement or a healthy iron-rich diet. If your results reveal that you are anaemic, your results and advice on further treatment will be posted to you.

No. The simple finger-prick test and the needle insertion may cause a little bit of discomfort, but it should not be painful during the donation process.

You will donate approximately 475ml of blood.

The human body replaces the blood volume (plasma) within 24 hours. Red blood cells are replaced by the bone marrow within three to four days. The lost iron is replaced after about six to eight weeks.

Some people have described a “strange” sensation during donation. There is also a possibility of feeling faint, in which case we stop immediately.

No. A nurse is always within earshot and able to see you.

Regular donors usually feel fine. Most donors suffer no side-effects, especially if they drink enough fluids in the four hours after donation. A few people do feel light-headed and others occasionally faint. This is completely normal and nothing to be alarmed about.

If you feel dizzy, lie down or sit with your head on your knees. In the unlikely event that you feel faint, be sure to lie down on your back with your legs elevated. This usually resolves any feeling of light-headedness and should prevent fainting.

In the case of bleeding, raise your arm up and apply pressure to the site until the bleeding stops. If you are worried about severe bruising, contact us and ask to speak to a doctor or nurse.

Normally, immediately after donating. However, it is best to have a snack and drink plenty of fluids during the four hours after you've donated. Also, don’t do any heavy exercise or lifting after donation and reduce regular exercise for a few days after donation.

Red cells can be stored for up to 42 days before they expire. Some other blood products have a longer shelf life.

HIV 1, 2 and subtype O, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C. Your blood type is also determined. Since October 2005 all donations have been tested with new DNA-based NAT technology.

Yes, we will contact you with confidential results if abnormal test results appear.

When we send you your donor card (about three to four weeks after registering), we’ll also include written confirmation of your blood type, and it will be displayed on your donor card.

It simply means that your blood is made up of a rare combination of antigens and is required more desperately than most.

No. All recipients must submit their accounts to their medical aid. However, in the case of a regular donor with no medical aid, we’ll enter into negotiation about the account.

Although we do receive blood from volunteer donors, the transportation, testing, storage and processing is very expensive. This, added to the administrative costs of providing a blood transfusion service, is what we charge for. In short, we charge for the service of ensuring a safe and adequate blood supply, and not for the blood itself.

If you have visited a malaria area, you will only be able to donate blood four weeks after leaving that area. Also, if you have any symptoms suggestive of malaria infection, you cannot donate blood for three months after the start of those symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with malaria, you will not be able to donate blood for three years from the time of complete treatment and recovery.

If you grew up in a malaria endemic area and have recently moved to South Africa, you will not be allowed to donate blood at WCBS for three years after leaving your home country. Also, if you travel back to your home country or visit any other malaria endemic area, you will be deferred for another three years from the time of leaving that area.  The reason for this is that people who have grown up in malaria endemic areas may acquire a partial resistance to malaria infection, which can mask the symptoms of the disease.  They may appear well but carry a low number of malaria parasites, which could be transmitted via their donated blood. Research has also shown that people from malaria endemic areas lose their immunity very quickly when they leave that area and become more susceptible to contracting malaria if they return to their home country or another malaria endemic area.