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knitfroggy's avatar

Is it possible to donate blood if you have bad veins?

Asked by knitfroggy (8962points) June 16th, 2009

I have always had trouble getting my blood drawn. Even when I was five and going in for an adnoidectomy they phlebotomist wanted to look at my ankles because she couldn’t find anything good in my arms. Being pregnant was hell because they would end up sticking me in the back of my hands or in the arteries I think in my wrists.

I have always wanted to be a blood donor, but I just don’t know if it would be a waste of time. Usually when I get blood drawn it’s a long process, several sticks and they end up using a tiny needle. I’ve been told a million times I have very small veins that roll. I’m willing to go through with it to donate blood, but I was wondering if anyone else had any experience with this.

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16 Answers

asmonet's avatar

Yep, they just might have to dig a bit.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

I have the exact same issues having blood drawn, and went to donate blood for the first time last week. They barely got enough blood to fill the tube, which is nowhere near close to the pint they need. I offered the other arm, but they declined, saying they thought it would end up the same way since my veins are bad.

It’s worth a shot, I guess, but don’t be surprised or disappointed if it doesn’t work.

casheroo's avatar

I’m betting you’ve tried drinking lots of juice beforehand?

You can try but the same thing that happened to @omfgTALIjustIMDu might happen.

knitfroggy's avatar

That’s a good idea @casheroo. When I had to have blood drawn a few weeks ago she wanted me to go home and drink a bunch of water and come back. I should try that before going to try to donate blood.

My mom said they would probably not be able to get very much blood from me because of the small needle they’d have to use. I’m going to give it a shot though, at least I would know then.

casheroo's avatar

@knitfroggy The size of the needle has nothing to do with it. Have you always had this problem? Dehydration before blood being drawn can cause this issue. Also, once before I had a cat scan, they could not find a vein in my arm…because you aren’t supposed to eat from midnight until the procedure. The nurses told me that I have bad veins and need to eat beforehand.
When I get stuck with a needle though, I bleed like a stuck pig, I’ve never had problems other than the nurses having issues finding a vein. Which can be solved with rehydration (usually)

knitfroggy's avatar

Yeah, I’ve always had the problem, even when I was a very small child. I’ve been poked, prodded and jabbed so much, I start apologizing to the phlebotomist before they even start looking at my arms. I’m just used to it and offer them the back of my hand, which stings a little bit more, but it’s not horrible. My veins are very small and deep and when they stick me they roll away from the needle.

serendipity's avatar

Go for it—I have small veins and it’s always a difficult for people to find my veins. But every time I speak to the Red Cross (where I donate) they say they’d rather have me there trying to donate then not there at all.

Supacase's avatar

It might work. I have bad veins and have given blood several times. Once or twice it took some extra time, more than a little digging around, and a bit of persuasion… but they got the pint.

However, because I do have such bad veins I was told during my hospital stay to stop donating. I only have a couple of decent spots to get at my veins and, because they’ve been used so many times over the years (since alternatives are lacking) they are starting to scar, which made it harder to work on me in an emergency situation. They said donating blood makes it worse and to stop donating before I built up even more scar tissue.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Hydration has a lot to do with a successful donation. A blood source or clinic will give you a list of things to do to prepare a few weeks in advance of you wanting to donate. Watch your iron intake also because they just got more stringent on what’s acceptable and raised the minimum weight requirement. If you fail the iron count, you can’t be eligible to attempt donation for two weeks.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I drank over 80 ounces in the day I was going to give blood, and it did not help. The nurse at the Red Cross told me that if I want to try again, start drinking about 4x as much water as usual a week before, and up it even more the day of. Eat eggs and fish and other sources of protein and iron.

From what you described, @knitfroggy, I have the exact same issue (including apologizing to the phlebotomist before they even start) with blood-drawing. Good luck, but don’t push yourself…it hurt a LOT after they took the needle out because they had been digging around inside so much, and I still have the bruise almost 10 days later.

Also, @knitfroggy, they use a much bigger needle, not a small one. The nurse there described it as “about the same size as a wooden pencil.”

knitfroggy's avatar

@omfgTALIjustIMDu my mother is an RN and she has told me before that the smaller butterfly needle that they usually draw my blood with won’t be good for donating blood. I’m still gonna give it a shot though

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

@knitfroggy, Yes, that’s what I meant. At the Red Cross they use a much bigger needle than you’re used to, so be prepared for it to burn/sting/hurt a bit more going in. The burn went away after a couple minutes, but it was definitely uncomfortable.

I hope I’m not talking you out of it, I just want you to be prepared which I most certainly wasn’t.

knitfroggy's avatar

@omfgTALIjustIMDu—Thank you! I appreciate the information. We were going to have a blood drive at work but they canceled it, so I think I’ll just call the Red Cross.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

@knitfroggy Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

BillyBoBob's avatar

They usually have trouble finding my veins, it’s not uncommon for them to actually take a glove off to find it and mark it. Then they sometimes have to make adjustments to the needle during the donation to keep me bleeding (it doesn’t hurt, I’ve never felt it). Even more than hydration, what seems to help the process on me is staying warm. When your body starts to get cold, it reduces blood flow to extremities. I make sure to keep my torso, arms, and hands warm for several hours before every donation.

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