The human blood is composed of different components that include:
- Red blood cells
- White blood cells
- 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. It contains around 92% water, 7% proteins, and 1% mineral salts, sugars, fats, hormones, and vitamins.
Plasma primarily serves as the vehicle for transporting nutrients, like proteins and enzymes. It also transports hormones and water to the cells and organs throughout your body. It transports metabolic wastes to the kidneys, liver, and lungs. It’s where other processes happen for the safe excretion of wastes. Lastly, it also helps maintain blood pressure and pH of the body.
Here’s a list of 22 reasons you can be disqualified from donating plasma.
Importance of it
In addition to the primary functions of plasma in the human body, it can also save lives. All over the world, many 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 to diagnose and treat some life-threatening, chronic diseases. From immune deficiency (PID) to albumin production for burn and shock patients, plasma can help alleviate symptoms.
Donation is open for everyone, but there are requirements that you need to meet before you can go ahead with it. It is 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.
So, how does it work? It’s similar to simple blood being drawn but with a few differences in terms of eligibility requirements and blood processing. 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. Your red blood cells and platelets are delivered back into your body along with some saline. Due to this additional process of isolating the plasma and sending back platelets and RBC, 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 as the needle breaks the skin. The nurses or trained volunteers ensure that all donors are comfortable during and after the process. Centers accepting it are usually stocked up with food and refreshments. You can consume it while resting after donating to combat lightheadedness.
How often can you do it?
According to the Red Cross Organization, you can donate every 28 days or up to 13 times per year. The frequency is higher than whole blood and red cells because only the plasma is taken from your blood, meaning 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. Let’s talk about age, weight, and blood type.
How old do you have to be to be eligible for plasma donation? Generally, donors must be at least 17 years of age. Younger individuals can also do it if given parental consent. You must also weigh at least 110 lbs or more. Male donors need to weigh around 110-118 lbs, depending on the height and age. 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 universal. It means that it can be administered to patients in need of plasma regardless of type. This is why the Red Cross Organization drives are called “AB Elite Plasma Donation.”
Next, you must pass two medical examinations. It includes medical history screening and tests for transmissible viruses. These tests will determine if you’re healthy enough to donate. They’ll determine if it’s safe for recipients to receive your plasma by ensuring that you do not harbor transmissible diseases.
For a comprehensive list of eligibility requirements for blood and plasma donation, visit this page on Red Cross Organization’s website.
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. If you have a background history of a certain disease, you may be disqualified. It can be 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.
As mentioned, you should be at least 17 years of age to donate. In some countries or states, individuals under 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. It can be family members.
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 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 with low blood volume would entail negative effects, such as a drop in blood pressure and nausea. It can cause extreme lightheadedness, among many other things.
These conditions will only be a problem if you’re not feeling well at the time. It could be difficulty breathing or an active infection. If you’ve already recovered and are feeling well, you will not be disqualified. You can only donate at least 10 days after your last antibiotic shot or oral medication for infections.
People with blood clotting problems will not be able to donate, except those who have a disorder from Factor V. You must be evaluated closely first. Furthermore, those currently taking anticoagulants or medications relating to “blood thinning” cannot give blood.
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, it would be fine. Their BP has to be below 180/100 at the time. You can go ahead with low BP, if your BP is at least 90/50.
A physician must evaluate pulse count outside of the range of 50-100 before approving donor eligibility.
Blood transfusion within the United States is acceptable, but you can only donate 3 months after your most recent transfusion.
If you had a transfusion from 1980 onwards in one of the following countries, you would be restricted from providing your plasma. The countries include:
- Northern Ireland
- Channel Islands
- Isle of Man
- or the Falkland Islands
It includes if the blood was from any of these places. This is to prevent the spread of variant “mad cow” disease, which had an outbreak in the areas above.
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.
For other cancer types, it is only possible if the patient has successfully ended their treatment for more than 12 months. It requires no cancer recurrence or other related symptoms. There is no need for a 12-month waiting period for lower-risk in-situ cancers and precancerous conditions. It’s as long as the abnormalities and cancerous sites have been removed successfully.
As long as donors are well-rested and healthy, plasma donation is possible with their chronic illness under control. If individuals suffer from a certain symptom that hinders them from passing other requirements, they will not be allowed to.
People suffering from symptoms within the last 6 months cannot be donors.
Those who had an episode must wait at least 6 months before becoming eligible again. Things that can disqualify you include:
- heart attack
- bypass surgery
- and recent medication changes
Individuals with a pacemaker can only provide blood if they pass the other requirements. It includes 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. You must wait for 28 days before scheduling your next session for frequency or interval of donation.
Individuals who have fallen ill 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, like 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. It includes if you used needles for unprescribed drugs or shared needles with someone else, among other things.
- Measles Exposure – Maybe you were not vaccinated against measles or were recently vaccinated within the last 4 weeks. You cannot donate.
- Zika Virus – You are eligible if your symptoms have been gone for at least 120 days.
Individuals who have fallen ill due to the following diseases are not eligible:
- “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 or any TSEs, you cannot donate.
- Sickle Cell Disease/Anemia
It 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, or Genital Herpes – You can donate as long as you’re feeling well and pass other requirements.
14 – Other Infectious Diseases – Parasitic and Bacterial
It 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. Once treatment is done and successful and you do not have active TB, you can apply again for donor eligibility.
15 – Skin Problems (Rashes or Infection)
Blood donation is prohibited if the infection or rash is currently active where your blood will be collected. It includes the crook of your elbow or at the top of your hand. Once the infection has passed, you become eligible again.
Acne flare-ups and medications do not affect your eligibility.
Recent organ or tissue transplants would disqualify you from being a donor. You have to wait for 3 months after the operation before becoming 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.
Fresh tattoos will bar you from donating but not indefinitely. You have to wait at least 3 months after getting your latest tattoo.
You cannot donate blood and plasma if you’re pregnant. You can only do so when it’s already 6 weeks post-delivery. It requires that you’re not experiencing other sicknesses or taking other medications.
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?
Medications do not affect your eligibility as a donor, especially if you’re healthy and feeling well. However, what factors in is the reason behind the prescription or the illness that you have.
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. 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 although you must wait for 2 days after the last dose.
- Birth Control – Eligible
For intravenous drug use that has not been prescribed to the individual, it is advised to not donate until after 3 months. People at risk for HIV/AIDS and previously mentioned diseases due to sharing 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 in deciding whether you can and should go ahead or not. It might seem like there are a lot of barriers preventing others from donating. Bear in mind that these requirements and restrictions are established for the safety of both the donor and recipient. It is never for discrimination or alienation.
Maybe you still want to help despite not being an eligible donor. Please consider volunteering or hosting blood drives in your local area. If you have some money to spare, consider helping with any money you can to recognized organizations. Help ones 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!
22 – Smoking weed
You can still be able to donate plasma if you smoke weed. It is dependent on whether or not you are experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned above that could disqualify you.
If you look around the internet, the money you were maybe hoping to make from this activity may not be as easy to come by as you had hoped.