Blood is a substance that carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. When a person is injured, they can sometimes lose blood. Excessive amounts of blood loss can be fatal, which is why donated blood is so important. Blood banks provide a vital health service. They collect blood from donors and distribute that blood to hospitals, where it can do the most good.

If you would like to give back to your community and potentially save a life, you can donate blood at a local blood bank. Donating blood is fast and easy. Here are four tips that will help you complete your first blood donation:

1. Make sure that you're eligible to donate blood

Most people are eligible to donate blood, but there are a few restrictions put in place for the safety of donors and recipients. If you've gotten a tattoo or piercing in the last three months, you are not eligible to donate blood. People who have HIV and other bloodborne diseases are similarly ineligible to donate blood, and people who are underweight cannot give blood for their own safety. You can always call your local blood bank ahead of time to confirm that you will be able to donate blood.

2. Eat a meal before donating blood

It's a good idea to eat a meal before arriving at the blood donation site. If possible, choose foods that are high in iron since donating blood will temporarily decrease your body's iron content. Red meat is a good source of iron, but vegetarians can get iron in their diets in the form of dark, leafy vegetables. Drink water with your meal since donating blood can have a dehydrating effect on the body.

3. Follow your phlebotomist's instructions

When it's time for your blood draw, you will be directed to sit in a comfortable chair. A phlebotomist will locate a vein, clean the skin above it, and insert a catheter in your arm using a needle. You may be asked to clench your fist or relax your arm at various points. Follow all the instructions you're given for a quick and easy visit.

4. Rest in the recovery room after your blood draw

During your blood draw session, a phlebotomist will take a pint of blood. You may feel a little dizzy or weak following blood donation, so it's important that you rest and let someone know if you begin to feel ill. Blood banks feature recovery rooms where recent donors are encouraged to rest and relax. You will be given juice and a small snack after your appointment, which will help to elevate your blood glucose levels and restore your energy.