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Post donation care advice

Symptoms you might experience, and what to do about them

Sonny Malhorta donating his stem cells

Looking after yourself

No two donors are the same after donating. Some may feel tired, while others ache. Some may have no side effects at all. Please follow any advice given to you by the hospital staff. 

Below is our advice about how to take care of yourself and deal with any side effects after a stem cell, bone marrow, or lymphocyte donation. The main thing is to rest and take it easy. 

If you have any questions or concerns after your donation, please contact the Donor Follow Up team on 020 7424 6568 or at donor@anthonynolan.org 

For urgent out-of-hours issues please contact the 24- hour emergency number on 07710599161 

If you’ve donated peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC)

Many people feel totally fine after donating stem cells, but one or more of the symptoms below are also common.

In order to aid your recovery, we recommend that you take a multivitamin supplement for 2-4 weeks after your donation, particularly if you donated over 2 days.

Bruising easily

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Low platelet levels post-donation may cause you to bruise more easily than usual, but don’t worry, your platelets will return to normal within a couple of days. 

Feeling tired

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Rest. Don’t do anything too strenuous for the first 48 hours after you’ve donated. Your energy levels will improve over the next few days.

Mild flu-like symptoms (headaches, muscle aches, and bone pain)

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Take pain-relief medication like paracetamol.
Don’t take ibuprofen or anything that contains aspirin for 2-3 days post-donation – it stops your blood clotting properly, which can be dangerous after you’ve donated.

If you’ve donated bone marrow

The side effects after donating bone marrow vary from donor to donor, as everyone is different. The important thing is to listen to your body, rest and don’t push yourself.

To aid your recovery, we recommend that you take a multivitamin supplement for 2-4 weeks after you have donated.

Below are some common side effects of donation – and what you can do to relieve them:

Disturbed sleep patterns, and loss of appetite

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Eat small, well-balanced snacks or light meals. Take it easy, and get early nights to help you return to your regular sleeping pattern.

Extreme tiredness

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This is quite common after a bone marrow donation. Spend plenty of time resting and the tiredness will pass.

Feeling light-headed

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Take it easy in general. Be careful, and go slowly when you stand up first thing in the morning. This should resolve within a few days.

Feeling tearful, irritable, or experiencing a sense of anti-climax after donation

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These feelings are quite common after general anaesthetic and will pass after a short time.

General mild swelling across the lower back

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Apply an ice pack to the area for up to 10 minutes at a time.

Stiffness and decreased energy levels

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Take short walks during the day to ease stiffness and rebuild your energy.

Swelling or discomfort around donation site

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Avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for 7–10 days. Painkillers should help too, but don’t take ibuprofen or anything that contains aspirin for 2-3 days post-donation – it stops your blood clotting properly, which can be dangerous after you’ve donated.

If you donated lymphocytes

Most people feel fine after donating lymphocytes, but there are two main side effects to look out for:

Bruising at the donation site

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You may have some bruising at the donation site, especially if it took a few attempts to place the needle. Avoid strenuous activity, and try to keep the bruised area slightly elevated where possible.

Feeling tired

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Make sure you rest and avoid any strenuous activity for 24 hours after donating.