22 Reasons You Can Be Disqualified from Donating Plasma

The human blood is composed of different components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Plasma is the liquid portion, which appears to be a light amber liquid when isolated. It makes up about 55% of your body’s total blood volume and contains around 92% water, 7% proteins, and 1% mineral salts, sugars, fats, hormones, and vitamins.

Plasma primarily serves as the vehicle for transporting nutrients (e.g., proteins, salts, and enzymes), hormones,and water to the cells and organs throughout your body. Moreover, it transports metabolic wastes to the kidneys, liver, and lungs, wherein other processes happen for the safe excretion of wastes. Lastly, it also helps in the maintenance of blood pressure and pH of the body.

Here’s a list of 22 reasons you can be disqualified from donating plasma.

plasma in a lab

Importance of it

In addition to the primary functions of plasma in the human body, it can also be used to save lives. All over the world, a lot of people suffer from diseases or injuries that require treatments that utilize human plasma. With around 500 proteins, clotting factors, immunoglobulin (IVIG), alpha-1 antitrypsin, albumin, and hyperimmune globulins from plasma. These can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of some life-threatening, chronic, and genetic diseases. From immune deficiency (PID) and bleeding disorders up to albumin production for burn and shock patients, plasma can help alleviate symptoms or heal those in need.

Donation is open for everyone, but there are requirements that you need to meet before you can go ahead with it, which are set for health safety reasons.

If you’re looking to give but are unsure if you’re qualified, you’ve clicked on the right link! In this post, we’ll discuss some FAQs of prospective donors.

How long does it take to donate plasma

So, how does it work? It’s actually quite similar to simple blood being drawn but with a few differences in terms of eligibility requirements and blood processing. First, to draw blood, a sterile needle is inserted into one arm at the crook of your elbow. Then, your blood is sent through a machine that collects your plasma. Afterward, your red blood cells (RBC) and platelets, along with some saline, are delivered back into your body. Due to this additional process of isolating the plasma and sending back platelets and RBC to your body, donating plasma takes slightly longer than the usual blood.

On average, this entire process takes around one hour and 15 minutes. First-time donors usually take up more time, around two hours. This process is safe and involves little pain (only as the needle breaks the skin), and the nurses or trained volunteers make sure that all donors are comfortable prior, during, and after the process. Moreover, centers accepting it are usually stocked up with food and refreshments that you can consume while resting after donating to combat lightheadedness (if it occurs).

How often can you do it?

According to the Red Cross Organization, “you can donate every 28 days, up to 13 times per year.” The frequency is higher compared to whole blood and red cells because only the plasma is taken from your blood (less volume).

What do they test for?

From age and weight up to medical history and medicine intake, there is a lot of information that must be screened for eligibility requirements. First, let’s talk about age, weight, and blood type.

How old do you have to be in order to be eligible for plasma donation? Generally, donors must be at least 17 years of age, but younger individuals can also do it if given parental consent. You must also weigh at least 110 lbs (50 kg) or more. Depending on the height and age, male donors need to weigh around 110-118 lbs., while female donors have a wider weight requirement scale of 110-145 lbs.

All blood types are eligible for it. However, type AB is the ideal candidate because it is a universal type, which means that it can be administered to patients in need of plasma regardless of type. This is why drives by the Red Cross Organization are called “AB Elite Plasma Donation.”

Next, you must pass two medical examinations: medical history screening and test for transmissible viruses. In other words, these tests will determine if you’re healthy enough to donate and if it’s safe for recipients to receive your plasma by making sure that you do not harbor transmissible diseases.

For a comprehensive list of eligibility requirements for blood and/or plasma donation, visit this page on Red Cross Organization’s website.

scientists holding a couple of tubes

What would restrict me from donating?

As mentioned, there would be a medical history screening and a test for transmissible diseases before you get a pass. In addition to not meeting the minimum required age and weight, if you have a background history of a certain disease, such as a severe chronic condition or an illness caused by a transmissible virus, you will not be allowed to donate blood or plasma.

Here’s a list of conditions that would hinder you from being a donor, along with some common requests regarding eligibility.

1 – Age

As mentioned, you should be at least 17 years of age to donate. In some countries or states, however, individuals under the age of 17 are allowed only if given parental consent. Another special case is when the blood or plasma will be used for emergency or scheduled surgery for yourself or a particular patient in need (i.e., family members).

2 – Weight and/or Height

You should weigh at least 50 kgs or 110 lbs to be eligible, as previously mentioned. There is no maximum weight limit for donors. For people under the age of 18, specific height and weight requirements must be met. Here are the charts for female and male teen donors from Red Cross:

Your blood volume is measured based on your height and weight. Taking from those who have low blood volume would entail negative effects, such as a drop in blood pressure, nausea, and extreme lightheadedness, among many others.

3 – Asthma, Allergy, Cold/Flu, and Infections

These conditions will only be a problem if you’re not feeling well at the time (e.g., difficulty breathing, active infection, fever, cough, etc.). Otherwise, if you’ve already recovered and are feeling well, you will not be disqualified. For infections, you can only donate at least 10 days after your last antibiotic shot or oral medication.

4 – Bleeding Conditions

People with blood clotting problems will not be able to donate, except those who have a disorder from Factor V (although you must be evaluated closely, first). Furthermore, those who are currently taking anticoagulants or medications relating to “blood thinning” cannot give blood.

5 – Blood Pressure, Hypertension, and Pulse

Individuals with too low or too high blood pressure (BP) at the time of donation will not be allowed to proceed. For donors that suffer from high BP, as long as their BP is below 180/100 (systolic/diastolic) at the time, it would be fine. For those with low BP, if your BP is at least 90/50, you can go ahead.

Pulse count outside of the range 50-100 must be evaluated first by a physician prior to the approval of donor eligibility.

6 – Blood Transfusion

Blood transfusion within the United States is acceptable, but you can only donate 3 months after your most recent transfusion.

However, if you had a transfusion from 1980 onwards in France, Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, or the Falkland Islands (or if the blood was from any of these places) you will be restricted from providing your plasma. This is to prevent the spread of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD; “mad cow” disease), which had an outbreak in the aforementioned areas.

7 – Cancer

Your eligibility will depend on the type of cancer and treatments (and medications) that you have. Those who suffer from cancers of the blood cannot donate (i.e., people with leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s Disease, etc.).

For other cancer types, it is only possible if the patient has successfully ended their treatment for more than 12 months, with no cancer recurrence or other related symptoms. For lower-risk in-situ cancers and precancerous conditions (e.g., basal cell cancers and pre-cervical cancer abnormality), there is no need for a 12-month waiting period as long as the abnormalities and/or cancerous sites have been removed successfully.

8 – Chronic Illnesses

As long as donors are well-rested and healthy, with their chronic illness under control, plasma donation is possible. If, however, an individual is suffering from a certain symptom that hinders them from passing other requirements, they will not be allowed to.

9 – Heart Diseases

People suffering from symptoms (e.g., chest pain) within the last 6 months cannot be a donor.

Those who had an episode of angina, heart attack, bypass surgery, angioplasty, and/or recent change in medications must wait at least 6 months before you become eligible again. Moreover, individuals with a pacemaker can only provide blood if they pass the other requirements, especially the pulse test (between 50-100 only).

10 – Hemoglobin, Hematocrit, Blood Count, & Frequency

Hemoglobin level below 12.5 g/dL (for women) or below 13.0 g/dL (for men) cannot donate. Hemoglobin level exceeding 20 g/dL will also result in disqualification. For frequency or interval of donation, you must wait for 28 days before scheduling your next session.

11 – Diseases due to Transmissible Viruses

Individuals who have fallen ill (past or current, at any age) due to the viral infection listed below are not eligible or must pass certain requirements to be eligible:

  • Ebola Virus infection
  • Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C (or unexplained jaundice)
  • Hepatitis Exposure (i.e., exposure to someone who has hepatitis B or hepatitis C)
  • HIV/AIDS – If you had a positive test or if you are at risk for AIDS infection in the past 3 months (e.g., used needles for unprescribed drugs, shared needles with someone else, sexual contact with someone exhibiting symptoms or is HIV positive, etc.)
  • Measles Exposure – If you were not vaccinated against measles or were recently vaccinated (4 weeks), you cannot donate.
  • Zika Virus – You are eligible if your symptoms have been gone for at least 120 days.

12 – Hereditary Diseases or Genetic Disorders

Individuals who have fallen ill (past or current, at any age) due to the following diseases are not eligible:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), Variant CJD (vCJD; “Mad Cow Disease”), or any Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) – If you have been diagnosed or if any relative of yours has been diagnosed with CJD, vCJD, or any TSEs, you cannot donate.
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Sickle Cell Disease/Anemia

Can you donate plasma if you have herpes

13 – Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Varies based on the type of STD or recovery period of the individual:

  • Syphilis – You are only eligible 3 months after you’ve been successfully treated.
  • Gonorrhea – You are only eligible 3 months after you’ve been successfully treated.
  • Chlamydia, Venereal Warts (Human Papillomavirus), and/or Genital Herpes – You can donate as long as you’re feeling well and pass other requirements.

14 – Other Infectious Diseases (Parasitic, Bacterial, etc.)

Varies depending on the type of disease or recovery period of the individual:

  • Chagas Disease – Not eligible (past or current infection)
  • Leishmaniasis – Not eligible (past or current infection)
  • Babesiosis – Only eligible once the infection has passed, at least 2 years after the last positive test.
  • Malaria – Only eligible 3 years after the treatment is done. If you’ve traveled within the past 3 years to countries where malaria is prevalent, you are not allowed to proceed. You have to wait 3-6 years before you can give again.
  • Tuberculosis (TB) – Individuals with active tuberculosis or are undergoing treatment for it cannot donate (i.e., taking antibiotics). Once treatment is done and successful, and you do not have active TB, you can apply again for donor eligibility.

15 – Skin Problems (Disease, Rashes, Acne, or Infection)

If the infection or rash is currently active at the skin/area where your blood will be collected (i.e., crook of your elbow or at the top of your hand), blood donation is prohibited. Once the infection has passed, you become eligible again.

Acne flare ups and medications do not affect your eligibility.

16 – Organ and/or Tissue Transplant

Recent organ or tissue transplants would disqualify you from being a donor. You have to wait for 3 months after the operation before become eligible.

In the case of dura mater or brain covering transplant, this results in permanent disqualification from being a blood or plasma donor. This is because of the possibility of CJD or other TSE transmission.

17 – Tattoo

Fresh tattoos will bar you from donating but not indefinitely. You have to wait at least 3 months after getting your latest tattoo.

While pregnant

18 – Pregnancy and Nursing

You cannot donate blood and/or plasma if you’re pregnant. You can only do so when it’s already 6 weeks post-delivery, given that you’re not experiencing other sickness or taking other medications.

Can diabetics donate plasma

19 – Diabetes

Only those who have their diabetes well-controlled via insulin or oral meds can donate. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, the practice should be avoided.

What medications disqualify you?

Generally, medications do not affect your eligibility as a donor, especially if you’re healthy and feeling well. What factors in, however, is the reason behind the prescription or the illness that you have.

20 – Oral or Topical Medications and Intravenous Drug Use

Eligibility will vary depending on the type of medication used and how far back the last dose was administered:

  • Antibiotics – It will depend on the type of infection that the antibiotic is treating. Transmissible infections (if acute or active) will disqualify you. Otherwise, you can go ahead right after taking your last oral antibiotic, given that the infection is done. For intravenous antibiotics, you must wait for 10 days before proceeding.
  • Aspirin – Eligible (wait for 2 days after last dose)
  • Birth Control (oral or other forms of contraceptives) – Eligible

For intravenous drug use that has not been prescribed to the individual (i.e., recreational drug usage), it is advised to not donate until after 3 months. However, as previously mentioned, people at risk for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C (and other transmissible diseases) due to sharing of needles or exposure are barred and ineligible.

For other medications, please ask your physician for a more detailed explanation.

I hope this post has helped you navigate your way on deciding whether you can and should go ahead or not. Although it might seem like there are a lot of barriers preventing others from donating, please bear in mind that these requirements and restrictions are established for the safety of both the donor and recipient, never for discrimination or alienation.

If you still want to help despite not being an eligible donor, please consider volunteering or hosting blood drives in your local area. Or, if you have some money to spare, consider helping with any amount of money you can to recognized organizations that host drives and help patients procure plasma and blood for their treatments.

Amidst these trying times, I hope we all find it in ourselves to help those in need. Stay safe and healthy!

21 – Covid-19 vaccines

You can generally donate plasma after having received your Covid-19 vaccine, however, that is dependent on you feeling well. If you’re symptom-free and none of the other reasons disqualify you, you’re good to go!

Covid-19 vaccine

22 – Smoking weed

You can still be able to donate plasm if you smoke weed, however, it is dependent on whether or not you are experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned above that could disqualify you.

Also, if you look around the internet for additional information on the topic, you may come to find that the money you were hoping to make from this activity may not be as easy to come by as you had hoped.

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