If you meet the plasma donation requirements, you are also eligible to donate bone marrow, platelets, double red cells, organs, and other body tissues.
Can I Donate if I have a tattoo?
No, you can't donate blood plasma if you have a tattoo - not for a long time. Donation centers (both blood banks and plasma centers) have different rules on deferral time, but generally you can't donate for 6 months - 1 year after getting a tattoo.
How will the blood bank/plasma center determine deferral time? After getting a tattoo, you must bring in a signed doctor's note, complete with contact information of the tattoo artist, address where you got the tattoo, and date the tattoo was inked. Expect some rejections even after bringing a note - blood banks and plasma centers are have several restrictions about donating when you have a tattoo.
The reasons you can't donate blood for 6 months - 1 year after getting a tattoo is because of STD risk and lead ink. Long gone are the days where dirty tattoo parlors shared needles between customers - most tattoo parlors are now safe and clean, with bleach sterilized equipment. But donation centers remain cautious.
AIDS, a common STD among shared needle users, takes 6 weeks to show up in the blood, and 6 months to begin showing symptoms. Thus, the 6 month deferral for donating. Also, plasma centers take precaution against blood contaminated with lead - lead being a common ingredient in tattoo ink/coloring.
Can't I just hide my tattoo? Hiding your tattoo to donate isn't advisable - especially if it's a brand new tattoo (inked within the last three months.) Sure, tattoos on the back, shoulders, thighs/legs are easy to hide, but are you sure that your tattoo parlor used safe, sterilized equipment? Old tattoos are safer, but tattooed donors should still take precaution not to contaminate the blood supply.
Can I Donate if I'm pregnant?
No, pregnant women are not allowed to donate plasma at any stage of pregnancy, not during the first, second, or third trimester. The reason pregnant women can't donate blood plasma is that low amniotic fluid levels during pregnancy are dangerous (amniotic fluid is made up of plasma.)
Plasma donation replenishes fluids after donating with saline, but the low fluid/plasma levels during donation can result in symptoms like miscarriage (very early pregnancy), nausea, extreme discomfort, racing pulse, loss of bladder control, and premature birth or fainting in late pregnancy.
This is why the pre-screening questions ask if you are currently pregnant before you donate. Pregnant women are deferred from donating for the length of their pregnancy, plus a number of months after giving birth (dependent on the different plasma center's rules.) Pregnant women are normally barred from giving plasma for 6 weeks after giving birth, to allow their bodies to heal.
What if I donated, but didn't know I was pregnant? Donating one time without knowing you were pregnant likely won't cause miscarriage or long-term harm the baby. It will just cause you extreme discomfort, and a feeling of sickness/nausea during donation. Repeat donations however, can cause miscarriage, so once you know you're pregnant, stop donating plasma immediately.
What about if I'm breastfeeding, or on my period?
Yes, you can donate plasma or blood while breastfeeding, or on your period. Once the 6 week restriction after giving birth ends, nursing women are free to donate. However, lactating moms should be careful to stay hydrated - breast milk is made up of 90% water, and donating plasma depletes liquid water in the body.
To ensure sufficient lactation and enough milk supply for the baby, breast feeding mothers should drink at least two 16 oz glasses of water within an hour of donating blood plasma. Also, donate only if your doctor approves, and your baby is a healthy birth weight, or has no trouble maintaining healthy weight.
For women on their period, staying hydrated (by drinking extra water before donating) prevents painful cramps caused by donating plasma during menstruation. Plasma donation during your menstrual period is perfectly safe, if you drink lots of water and have a nutritious meal before going.
Another consideration for donating while on your period is low iron levels. Menstruation depletes iron levels in the blood, and low iron levels is the biggest cause for donation center deferrals/rejection. Menstruating women should take an iron pill, or eat iron rich foods like liver or broccoli before donating plasma.
Can I Donate Plasma After Having a Blood Transfusion?
If you received a tainted blood IV, or if you suffered from cross contamination, you may have contracted HIV/AIDS, which can take up to 12 months to begin showing symptoms. This is the reason that volunteer donors must wait 12 months after having a blood transfusion to donate.
If you traveled to France, the UK, and most of Europe and African countries after 1980, and had a blood transfusion, you are deferred indefinitely from donating blood and plasma. The reason for this travel restriction is that these countries didn't use sterilized blood transfusion practices until recently, putting donors who traveled abroad at high risk for HIV contamination.
Can I Donate If I am Overweight/Obese or Underweight?
Yes, if you are overweight/obese, you can donate plasma. However, most plasma donation centers have a maximum weight limit of 400 pounds, or a BMI (body mass index) limit of over 50. The 400 pound and under weight limit is in place because donating while extremely morbidly obese puts pressure on the heart, potentially causing a heart attack or other heart complications.
Anyone slightly overweight, or obese but under the 400 lbs/over 50 BMI maximum limit, is allowed to donate plasma, as long as the donor is healthy, and their weight isn't causing hypertension (high blood pressure due to stress), heart disease, or diabetes.
If you are underweight, you can donate plasma as well. However, most plasma centers have a minimum weight requirement of 80 pounds, or a lower BMI of 15. You will also receive less money for donating if you are underweight/have a low BMI.
Extremely thin/underweight donors, especially those suddenly losing weight for no reason, might not meet the minimum weight restrictions for donating blood for lack of blood volume to safely give.
Is there an age limit for blood plasma donation?
Yes - senior citizens and the elderly can donate, but only up to the maximum age limit of 64. The lower age limit is not under 18 years old, making the age range for eligible donors 18-64 year old adults. Children and the elderly are barred from donating blood plasma because dangerous complications from dehydration and blood loss increase with very young, and very old age.
Can People with Diabetes Donate?
Yes, people in the US with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can donate plasma, with certain restrictions. To donate plasma with diabetes, you must:
- Have your diabetes under control through diet and exercise alone (not injectable insulin.)
- Have not taken injectable insulin or insulin tablets to control diabetes in the past 2 weeks.
- Have never taken bovine (cattle based) or novo (pork based) insulin due to increased risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
- Have not taken Soriatane in the past 3 years.
- Have not taken Accutane, radioactive material injections, Proscar, antivirals, or antibiotics for diabetes in the past 2 months.
- Bring a signed note from your endocrinologist confirming that your hypoglycemic (blood sugar) levels have been stable for the past two months, and that your diabetes is control through lifestyle changes alone
While plasma donors can donate twice a week with one day interval in between donations, as per FDA regulations, diabetic donors are recommended not to give plasma more than once a month, or once in a 28 day period. Diabetic blood donors should limit blood donation to twice a year, or once in a 6 month period.
This is because diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) puts stress on small blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, and heart. Dehydration from blood plasma donation can put high pressure on these delicate blood vessels, leading to numbness, clotting, or even blindness. Only diabetic donors whose diabetes is under controlled without insulin can donate plasma or blood without risk of injury.
Can People with Cancer Donate?
- Kaposi's Sarcoma
After 5 years, cancer patients whose cancer was successfully treated by surgery, and whose cancer doesn't affect the blood (i.e. breast cancer, brain, liver, stomach, cervical, testicular, and lung cancer survivors) are allowed to donate plasma again. Melanoma (skin cancer) survivors can donate immediately after the tumor/irregular mole/skin growth is removed.
Can You Donate if You Have Anemia?
Anemia is medical term for low hemoglobin levels in the blood. Hemoglobin is made up of iron (FE) and protein, and is used to bind and carry oxygen to vital organs in the body. When you go to donate plasma, the plasma center will first do a finger prick test, which draws a small amount of blood to test hematocrit and hemoglobin levels.
If you have low hematocrit or low hemoglobin (anemia) you will be restricted from donating for one day. This is because anemia while donating causes dizzyness, fainting, fatigue, and trouble breathing in donors.
Common causes of anemia include chronic illnesses, and low iron levels in the blood - especially in menstruating (pre-menopausal) women. Donors with anemia will receive a temporary rejection, but can try again the next day after getting their iron levels up, with iron rich foods (like liver and onions) or by taking an iron pill. Low hemoglobin, or anemia not caused by low iron levels, should be diagnosed by a doctor, and you should stop donating until a diagnosis is determined.
Sickle-cell anemia, a chronic, genetic form of anemia caused by irregular sickle-shaped cells unable to bind iron, is not treatable, and is a criteria for permanent donation deferral .
Can I Donate if I'm sick, or have a cold, or mono?
Plasma donors are required to be healthy on the day they donate - disqualifying criteria include fever above 99 degrees, and cold or flu symptoms (clammy skin, sniffles, running nose, cough and sneezing, or vomiting and nausea.) Even more than vitamin C, your immune system relies on plasma to create germ-antibodies and white blood cells, and heal the infection. Plasma donation while sick with the cold or flu can delay healing time, and lead to complications like chronic cough, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Catching mononucleosis means you can't donate blood plasma until the infection is over, and the body has fully healed from infectious bacteria.
Can Smokers Donate Blood Plasma?
Yes, smokers can donate plasma and blood. Most plasma centers recommend waiting one hour after a cigarette to donate, and not smoking for 4 hours after donation.
Can I Donate if I Have Hpv/Herpes/HIV or Hepatitis?
No, you can't donate plasma while you have any STD, or STI including gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV/aids, or Hepatitis A, B, or C. If you have any STD, even if it's been fully treated, or even if you were in a situation that put you at risk for contracting an STD (sharing needles, spending 72 hours or more in lockup, living with someone infected with the disease) you will be barred for 12 months from donating plasma or blood. Incurable infections, like HIV, and Hepatitis B and C, are a permanent bar from donating plasma.
HPV (human papillomavirus), a harmless wart, is spread from skin to skin contact - there is no risk of spreading the papilloma through the blood. Therefore, those with HPV can donate blood plasma safely. Those with warts on other parts of their body, like the hands, feet, or facial warts, aren't restricted from donating either.
Herpes, a relative of HPV, is also spread through skin to skin contact - it's a dormant virus that is not spread through the blood. Those with herpes, both HSV1 and HSV2 are therefore eligible to donate plasma. Oral herpes sufferers may donate at any time when blisters are dry and inactive. Those with other types of herpes lesions must wait for 4 weeks of being symptom free to donate, or 4 weeks after the wet (active) blisters have crusted over.
Women who have taken the HPV shot Gardasil are eligible to donate after waiting 3 weeks after the injection.
People with cold sores, a harmless oral strain of herpes simplex virus causing blistering spots on the lips, can donate at any time.
Why Should You Donate Blood Plasma?
Donated plasma makes life-save drug therapies for burn victims and chronic anemia sufferers. One unit of red blood cell donation saves up to 3 lives in cases of otherwise fatal blood loss. Plasma donation also benefits people by making flu shots, and creates drug therapy for premature infants born with low hemoglobin levels. Blood plasma donation really gives the gift of life. For anyone that is a healthy adult between the ages of 18-64, becoming a volunteer blood donor is a noble way to share your good health. If you can donate blood plasma, and meet the eligibility requirements above, you can also earn money for your time and generosity.
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