Young Blood Donors

Thank you for choosing to help save lives through blood and platelet donations. Young donors, like you, play an important role in helping to make sure that blood is available when and where it is needed most. The American Red Cross wants you to have the best possible donation experience as you begin your life-long donation journey.

As a blood donor, you donate one pint of blood, which your body quickly replaces. As someone who is new to donating blood, we encourage you to focus on being a healthy blood donor. Here are a few things you should do to have the best possible experience:

How should I prepare for my donation?

Please make sure to bring your photo identification or Red Cross donor card with you. You should feel well on the day of donation. If you're not feeling well, we ask that you wait and donate when you're better. Here are some other helpful tips to prepare:

  • Get at least eight hours of sleep the night before your appointment
  • Eat a healthy breakfast or lunch – or both, if you’re donating later in the day
  • Choose lean proteins (lean meat, cheese and yogurt) or complex carbohydrates (bread, cereal and fruit) and avoid fatty foods
  • Drink a few extra glasses of water, including an extra glass about 10 to 30 minutes before your donation
  • Wear comfortable clothing with sleeves that can be raised above your elbow

It is also important that you have a good understanding of your medical history. You will be asked a series of questions that are personal in nature – about travel, medication, drug use and sex. It’s important you answer questions honestly. Remember, your answers are confidential.

What should I do after donating?

It is important to keep up healthy habits after donating to help your body recover quickly. Here are some things you should do:

  • Drink plenty of water after donating, making sure to stay hydrated
  • Try to relax – avoid strenuous exercise or work for the rest of the day
  • Take a multivitamin with 18mg iron for 60 days to help replenish the iron your body lost*

* We recommend you speak with your health-care provider before taking multivitamins with iron.

Frequently Asked Questions

Maintaining your iron level is an important part of being a healthy donor. We encourage you to learn more about iron and donating blood.

Why should I consider taking a multivitamin with iron after donating?

Your body loses iron during blood donations. Low iron, also known as iron deficiency, may lead to health problems, such as anemia, if left untreated. Healthy iron levels are important for your overall health and help to maintain strength and energy.

Replenishing iron levels after donating is especially important in younger donors, as your body is still growing. Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet with foods rich in iron and high in vitamin C can help. But, recent research has shown that diet alone may not be enough. Taking a multivitamin with 18 mg of iron for 60 days after each blood donation, or for 120 days after each power red donation, will help replenish your iron levels. Before making changes to your health routine or adding a multivitamin with iron, we recommend you consult with your health-care provider.

I was told I couldn’t donate today. What now?

Thank you for attempting to donate today. Each donor undergoes a mini-physical and confidential health history interview to make sure you’re healthy enough to donate. The Red Cross wants to make sure we’re focusing on the health of our blood donors and the patients they help.

The amount of time we ask you to wait before returning to donate will depend on why you were asked to wait. The staff should have provided you with some helpful information. If you’re still unsure, please call us at 1-866-236-3276.

My hemoglobin level was too low. What should I do?

Before each donation, the Red Cross checks your hemoglobin level using a finger stick. This process determines how much hemoglobin is in your blood. Hemoglobin is the protein in your blood that gives it the red color. It carries oxygen from your lungs to nourish tissues throughout your body. If your hemoglobin is too low to safely donate, we will ask that you wait.

A Red Cross staff member will provide you with an information sheet on ways you can help increase your hemoglobin such as eating foods rich in iron and high in vitamin C while limiting foods that might block iron absorption. You can also speak with your health-care provider about taking a multivitamin with iron.

Do I need to talk to my doctor about my test results?

It is normal for hemoglobin and iron levels to fluctuate, whether you donate blood or not. If you are concerned about your test results, we encourage you to discuss them with your parents and your health-care provider.

My parents have some additional questions, where can they learn more?

We have some additional resources on our website where your parents can learn more:

Frequently asked questions about iron and blood donation
Learn more about being a healthy donor
Recently deferred donors

You can also call us at 1-866-236-3276.

I recently received a letter telling me I had a low ferritin level. What does that mean?

Ferritin is a protein that stores iron in tissues throughout your body. To continue providing the best possible donation experience for young donors whose bodies are still growing, the Red Cross is testing ferritin levels for all whole blood and power red donors between the ages of 16 and 18. If your ferritin level is low, females will be asked to wait 12 months to return to donate and males will be asked to wait six months to return to donate. The additional time between donations will allow your body to replenish the iron it needs. You may also benefit from taking a multivitamin with iron to help maintain healthy iron levels. We recommend you consult with your health-care provider before doing so.