I donated blood and still feel wigged out.
January 28, 2010 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Blood donation question: how long does it take to fully recover from donating blood? Yesterday was the first time I've ever donated..some questions....

I felt really wigged out last night after donating - light headed, woozy and weak. Today I felt better but when I tried to work out I felt very weak - not myself. I've been eating iron rich foods all day. Lots of water too. Any other suggestions? When will I be back to my strong self again and does this happen every time you donate?
posted by dmbfan93 to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I do not think that it's normal to have weakness last for more than a few hours. IANAD but when I have donated the cookie and juice are usually enough to get me right in an hour or so.

You don't mention your age or general health, OTOH you work out.

I'd say check with a professional.
posted by Splunge at 6:09 PM on January 28, 2010

At the most, it takes a full eight weeks to get back to normal. That's the length of time before you're allowed to donate blood again. Having said that, I usually feel better in a few hours. I've never tried strenuous exercise the day after, though. My guess is you're fine.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 6:17 PM on January 28, 2010

I usually try to just walk out but the sweet little old ladies always make me eat cookies and drink water. The ideal reaction is absolutely zero affect on your routine. Be very careful, continue drinking lots of water/juice and take it easy. If you continue to feel lightheaded, visit an urgent care center.
posted by carlh at 6:17 PM on January 28, 2010

everyone reacts differently. however, when I donate, they do advise me not to exercise for 24 hours. that probably didn't help you. take it easy and you should be ok by tomorrow. and good on you!
posted by killy willy at 6:20 PM on January 28, 2010

The biggest issue when you donate blood is more the missing volume than the missing red blood cells. That's why the little old ladies push the fluids - to help get your volume back up. It takes your body about two months to make up the blood cells.
posted by honeybee413 at 6:20 PM on January 28, 2010

I've been a blood donor for a long time, but I'm not a doctor or medical professional.

In my experience, I feel kinda run down after I donate, but not lightheaded, just tired. I generally avoid exercise for the first day or so after I donate, which may or may not be necessary.

One thing you might want to watch out for is that not everyone can give every eight weeks like clockwork. I tried that for a while and ended up failing the iron test eventually, and had to take iron tablets for a month or two. My doctor recommended I cut back to giving every three or four months, which I did, and I've been fine since then.
posted by tellumo at 6:31 PM on January 28, 2010

I gave blood for the first time in December after finding out I am O- (only recently was allowed to donate after my time frame from receiving transfusions expired) and it took me a few days to feel "normal" again. I was really bad the first day, nearly fainting and still in pain at the needle site. I don't think it's too unusual that you might feel basically okay but dizzy when working out, but I do suggest dropping a voicemail or email to your doctor to touch base.
posted by bunnycup at 6:32 PM on January 28, 2010

If you're not feeling close-to-normal by the second or third day, I'd head to the clinic. Usually, I'm about 36 hours before I feel truly back in the normal range; wooziness the day after is not necessarily unusual (IANAD), especially if you were working out.

As kiily willy said, everyone reacts differently. Don't let it dissuade you from giving again!
posted by liquado at 6:34 PM on January 28, 2010

Hydrating ahead of time seems to make all the difference for my recovery period; I try to be very diligent in the 3-4 days leading up to donation. I still almost always have to take a drooler of a nap the next day, but if I was well-hydrated when I donated I'm usually back to normal after that nap and one more night's sleep.

It also seems to be a little harder the first time, or the first time after a long time off. If you're still feeling funny tomorrow, you can call the donation center for advice.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:35 PM on January 28, 2010

I've only given blood once and I had such a bad time with it, I'll never do it again unless I have to. I passed out twice; the second time hours after I donated. I felt nauseated, weak and gross the entire rest of the day and night. The next day I felt a little better but I was still weak. I would say it took me about 3 days to fully recover from my symptoms. Clearly, everyone reacts differently. My boyfriend gives blood on a regular basis through his work and he says he never feels any negative symptoms afterward.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:37 PM on January 28, 2010

I was just about the minimum weight required when I was still able to give blood. I exercise fairly regularly and could definitely notice the change in strength and some light-headedness for up to two weeks after giving blood. This one time I wasn't thinking and gave blood after doing a blood test and was menstruating and I felt awful for a few hours after the donation, even though I was at my fattest. If possible, I tried to up my iron intake in the weeks leading up to the donation, since I usually get just barely enough (I'm vegetarian and not very good at planning my diet). If I'm in good shape for the donation, I'm fine even without consciously taking in extra fluids afterwards.
posted by bread-eater at 6:38 PM on January 28, 2010

You have not mentioned whether you are male or female, big or little, etc. So, here are some things to consider. If you are a diminutive person, you simply don't have as much blood in you as, say, a three hundred pound football player. Yet, when they take a unit of blood, they are taking the same amount from you as from him. As a percent of your total body volume, you are giving more. That said, you should be feeling OK shortly after giving blood. I have given, literally, gallons of blood and never had an adverse outcome. If you give blood and you don't have a lot to start with, you might be a little low on fluids. If that is the case, it probably is best not to work out for a couple of days. If you are not fainting, you are probably not in any danger. But, as mentioned above, keep drinking fluids to help restore your volume.

The next time you see your doctor on a routine visit, ask what s/he thinks and whether s/he has any advice about things you can do before giving blood next time.

My guess is that, after you've done it two or three times, it will become routine and you won't have any after effects.
posted by Old Geezer at 6:48 PM on January 28, 2010

This is pretty basic info, so excuse me if you knew this, but in addition to being well-hydrated, you should have eaten at least one meal before you donate blood. The only time that I've felt light-headed and nauseous, was the first time I gave blood. I was vaguely aware that you were supposed to eat, but figured that I'd be OK because I planned on going to lunch directly afterward (I passed the blood drive on the way to lunch and it seemed like a good plan to just do it then rather than have to return later). I almost passed out immediately, but rallied after laying down for awhile and then having the obligatory juice and cookie. But I felt sick again that night. I learned my lesson and from then on and made sure that I was fed and watered prior to donating and never experienced that again. Then again, I doubt that I ever exercised after giving blood. It's been awhile, but like others have noted, I recall being told to take it easy for 24 hours and being rather lazy, that was all the justification that I needed not to work out!
posted by kaybdc at 6:50 PM on January 28, 2010

oh and by one meal, I meant to specify, one meal no more than a few hours before donating (as opposed to one meal ever, which is how it currently reads).
posted by kaybdc at 6:52 PM on January 28, 2010

You'll probably be back up to full strength in another day or two; remember that blood donation represents about 600 calories worth of 'work' for your body to make up for - a 600 calorie workout on an inexperienced athlete would kick their ass, your bone marrow is similarly untrained for this kind of thing. Take it easy for a few days and call a doctor if you're not feeling better soon.

FWIW I donate every 8 weeks and have never experienced any symptoms other than being worn out by aerobic exercise a bit faster for a few days (I'm a 165lb male with high blood pressure, your mileage may vary a lot as a [smaller?] female). If you try it again a couple times and eat beforehand and it still sucks, don't feel bad about leaving it for people who aren't affected by it so much.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:59 PM on January 28, 2010

I'm 5'9", 205 pounds and I usually require the cookie, the soda pop and lying down for a bit afterwards to make the lightheadedness go away. Everyone reacts differently.
posted by mmascolino at 7:04 PM on January 28, 2010

To impress a girl I once donated blood and then immediately went on a several mile hike. Point being: It depends on the person. I will tell you it was not my best idea ever.
posted by GilloD at 7:09 PM on January 28, 2010

Congrats on being a blood donor!! *internet high five* I donated for the first time a week ago :-)

I felt fine immediately after donating (I had only eaten a banana earlier, oops), but then suddenly in the early evening, I was very very very sleepy. It was like BAM! I needs to sleep now! But I felt fine the next day; you just might need a little more recovery time. I was advised to not do any heavy exercise for 48 hours, thought as others have said, some have been told only a day's wait is suffice. Continue to drink extra fluids, eat normally but adding some extra iron is good (try snacking on chick peas as a snack). Get some extra rest. Ease back in to your routine, but trust your body. Sounds like you're on the right track, and you'll very likely be feeling more like yourself in another day or so.
posted by raztaj at 7:15 PM on January 28, 2010

Wow, I had no idea it was so common to experience aftereffects from giving blood. I've done it lots of times, am not a particularly large person, actually fail the iron test half the time, but never felt any different when I was done. I wouldn't rule out the idea that you are just coming down with something.
posted by lakeroon at 7:29 PM on January 28, 2010

I am relatively healthy, female, average height/weight. After I donated blood for the first time (a couple weeks ago), I was feeling excellent for about 30 minutes... I walked a few blocks and felt no different than usual, then I got home and went to pee, and I fainted on la toilette. I spent the entire rest of the day in bed with a really awful headache and dizziness, and the following day was a little rough. Eating a lot and drinking a lot of water were the keys for me to feel muchmuchmuch better. I think that being very well-hydrated beforehand and immediately afterward are probably going to help a lot for me next time.

Also! I have been feeling a weird pulling/aching sensation every so often at the site where the needle was inserted, even 2 weeks later, and I was told by my mother, who is an accomplished blood donor, that that's normal too. It freaked me out and I couldn't figure out how to google it so that I got relevant info, so I am passing it along to you in case you get something like that too.
posted by so_gracefully at 7:36 PM on January 28, 2010

The only time I've felt effects more than half a day after donating blood was when my sleep was particularly bad the night before, and I tried to do more than usual the day after. Usually I just feel a bit out of sorts for a couple of hours afterwards but when it was combined with bad sleep and overexertion after, it made for a whole new level of fatigue.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:04 PM on January 28, 2010

I have very low blood pressure, and donate blood frequently. My reactions have run the gamut -- from completely unnoticeable (most common), to starving all afternoon, to craving a nap, to a regular workout seriously wiping me out, to nearly passing out immediately after. Donation will not affect all people the same way, and it won't even affect the same PERSON the same way every time.

As other MeFis have noted, being hydrated & well-rested, as well as having eaten beforehand (and aggressively hydrating afterwards), play a HUGE role in how the donation will affect you. I wouldn't be at all surprised to feel a little off during a workout the next day, but I would be more concerned if such weakness/fatigue lasted for more than a day afterwards.

Make sure to get enough sleep in addition to your proper nutrition & extra hydration, and don't push yourself through a hard workout. Drink more water than you think you need. If you have low blood pressure, you may very well experience a longer recovery time than another individual, but if you're caring for yourself properly & not exerting yourself, my worst experience indicates that you should expect to feel all right by tomorrow at the latest.
posted by tigerbelly at 8:26 PM on January 28, 2010

Most people that pass out are having anxiety issues.

Yeah, no. I have had anxiety attacks before so I know what it feels like. I had absolutely no anxiety giving blood and was actually exciting about doing it. I'm not squeamish in the slightest and was looking forward to seeing the process in person. I actually like all things medically blood and guts related. I passed out twice. Once about 10 minutes after giving, I was just having a regular conversation to the person in the cot next to me. The second time was hours later when I was in the bathroom. I felt like I was about to puke so I rushed to the bathroom and then lights out.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:29 PM on January 28, 2010

It can be psychosomatic - the protocols for `blood SAMPLE` that I`ve seen limit the amount of blood let per session to be 1% max. A typical person has 1L of blood per around 10kg (around 22 pounds) of body mass. This is very very deep into the safe range. So if you`re about 170 pounds, 60mL is on the waaaay safe side.

At 10% that`s 600mL of blood - that`s almost two glasses of beer, and I`ve been bled that for science, by my own hand, with little ill effect.

It takes about 33% blood loss to be in the really dangerous, so a little over 2 liters (a bit shy of a half gal) should be about the upper limit of safety.

If you`re feeling poorly, drink lots of fluids (sports drinks, gatorade), and maybe make a meal of brocolli+pineapple (it`s yummy, and the citric acid helps you absorb the iron) or use it as an excuse to chow down on a big fat steak (but eat some citrus alongside - the human body uses citric acid to absorb iron).

Hope you feel better, sooner.
posted by porpoise at 8:36 PM on January 28, 2010

I used to donate blood regularly until I spent a year in England before BSE was diagnosed. I felt a bit woozy afterwards but the next day I was OK. I was in my late teens and early 20s, though, and in fine fettle, so YMMV. I'm hoping that the interdiction is lifted soon so I can start donating again.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:38 PM on January 28, 2010

I felt really wigged out last night after donating - light headed, woozy and weak. Today I felt better but when I tried to work out I felt very weak

I gave blood last week (not my first time) - I felt okay, a little bit drained afterwards, but the next day at work I felt weak. I would not have tried to work out only 2 days after.

I think some of it is psychosomatic, too. You know you gave blood, especially if it's your first time you don't know what to expect, so you kind of convince yourself you'll feel (x) symptoms or are more focused in general on your symptoms. This is what I think I do, anyway.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:43 PM on January 28, 2010

Most people that pass out are having anxiety issues.

This has not, at all, been my experience. I'm not a passer-outer, but I've seen totally calm and collected people [even when the needle is going in] keel over during or after giving blood.

For me it usually tires me out a little for the next day, nothing major, just I sleep more and eat more and have less... vim. If you're not feeling better in another day or two, I'd get it checked out, but one day of tiredness is pretty normal.
posted by jessamyn at 9:36 PM on January 28, 2010

The time that really made me tired when I donated was when I worked out early that morning. I had forced myself to drink as much as I could before hand, and that did help with making the donation itself faster. But I found it very tiring to stand at the stove to cook that evening. The next day I was fine.
posted by Monday at 1:10 AM on January 29, 2010

Supporting evidence:
In the UK the guidance is to only give blood every four months (and you don't get paid for it!) because this is, presumably, a good amount of time in which to replenish your blood cells.

Last time I donated, they've adopted the new policy of making you drink at least a pint of water before you donate, in addition to the tea and biscuits post-donation. This must be, as everyone has pointed out, that it's best to go in hydrated.

They also give everyone a little card after each session with a number on it to call for advise in case you feel bad after the session - so, clearly they expect people to a) possibly feel rough even after they've left the centre; and b) not be totally recovered for at least sixteen weeks after each donation.
posted by citands at 4:08 AM on January 29, 2010

Most people that pass out are having anxiety issues.

No, sometimes your body just reacts a little differently to having a pint+ of its fluids removed.

I've given blood several dozen times, and am always pretty calm about it. I've passed out once, and felt lightheaded afterwards two or three times, once severely enough that they had to keep me a few minutes after donating for observation.

RE: working out, I ride a bike, and always notice that I get winded far easier for a week or so after donating. Your body just has fewer red blood cells to transport oxygen, and it requires some time to build that supply back up.
posted by cog_nate at 7:31 AM on January 29, 2010

I have donated a lot.

I notice that afterwards it is harder for me to work out for a few days. It really bothers me too, this idea that I don't donate as often because it makes me feel tired and run down. And that is only sometimes, not all the time.

I read a blog once where runners posted about donating blood, and someone said just do it because the person who needs it is in much worse shape than you. I find that is a good motivator for me to not be so selfish, which is something I struggle with.
posted by chocolatetiara at 7:54 AM on January 29, 2010

I've donated a few times and felt fine within the hour. The night before you donate, try eating something iron-rich (like a venison steak or something). If your iron levels are high, you recover faster. This is why the nurses will take a drop of blood first and see how fast it sinks in water (faster sinkage = higher iron = faster recovery for you). Also, getting a lot of water before and after your donation helps.
posted by Kurichina at 8:47 AM on January 29, 2010

I'm generally pretty sleepy and sluggish for a day or so after giving blood.
posted by sarcasticah at 9:05 AM on January 29, 2010

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