Donating Plasma: Your Common Questions Answered

donating plasma

Why Donate, Getting Paid, Requirements, Disqualifications, and More!   

Our bodies contain approximately 12 pints, or 1.2 to 1.5 gallons, of blood. Yes, you read that right. Not only that, but 8% to 10% of our bodies’ weight is dependent on the blood in our body. 

Half of the blood content in our bodies is a liquid called “plasma.” One option when giving blood is to donate plasma, which we’ll be focusing on here. 

What Is Plasma? 

Plasma is the pale-yellow liquid portion of your blood that can be easily replaced by the body. It consists mainly of water and proteins, which help your body control bleeding and infection. Research has shown that plasma contains 91% to 92% water and 8% to 9% solids. 

The solids in plasma consist of: 

  1. Coagulants that aid in blood clotting    
  2. Plasma proteins that help maintain the colloidal osmotic pressure at about 25 mmHg
  3. Electrolytes that help maintain blood pH
  4. Immunoglobulins that help fight infection and various other small amounts of enzymes, hormones, and vitamins
Fun fact: donated plasma is collected and frozen within 24 hours to preserve the functionality of the various clotting factors and immunoglobulins; it is thawed before use and has a shelf life of 1 year. 

What Are the Benefits of Donating Plasma? 

Plasma helps anyone who needs it in emergency situations. Although giving plasma is a simple donation process for you, the individual who is receiving your plasma donation is benefitting greatly. 

According to DonatingPlasma.org, patients all over the world rely on plasma protein therapiesplasma to treat rare, chronic diseases. These individuals rely on the generosity and commitment of plasma donors. You may donate plasma in one of more than 900 licensed and certified plasma collection centers located in the U.S. and Europe.

Plasma often is referred to as the “gift of life” because it is the essential starting material needed to manufacture therapies that help thousands of people worldwide with rare, chronic diseases to live healthier, productive, and fulfilling lives.

According to the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA), you can donate plasma once every two days, but no more than twice in a seven-day period.

What Are the Qualifications for Donating Plasma?

If you want to donate plasma, you must be: 

  • at least 16 years old, 
  • weigh over 110 pounds, and
  • have a valid ID 

There are also some factors that can disqualify you from being able to donate.  If you have meet any of the  following conditions, you are ineligible to donate plasma: 

Health Conditions

  • Currently pregnant 
  • Recently gave birth (most places recommend waiting at least 6 weeks after pregnancy, if not more)
  • Had dental work in the past 72 hours
  • Received the MMR vaccine in the past 4 weeks  
  • Had chickenpox in the past month 
  • Have taken antibiotics orally in the past 24-48 hours, or by injection in the past 72 hours
  • Has had or currently has viral hepatitis A, B, or C

Chronic Diseases

  • Hemophilia or other bleeding disorders
  • Has, or had, tuberculosis
  • Heart disease
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Certain types of cancer 
  • Malaria (contracted in the past three years or traveled to an endemic area in the past year) 
  • HIV positive 

Medications

  • Accutane 
  • Oral Retin-A
  • Finasteride
  • Etretinate
  • Individuals who are taking medication for treating TB or malaria 

Other Factors

  • If you’ve gotten a body piercing or tattoo in the past 12 months. The only exception to the tattoo rule is if that tattoo is from a licensed facility in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, or Mississippi. If that’s the case, then you only need to wait one month. 

Preparation Steps for Donating Plasma: 

Before:

  • Drink lots of water before donating on your plasma donation day
  • Eat a healthy meal within two hours of your visitdonating plasma
  • Avoid foods high in fat or cholesterol
  • Don’t use tobacco for an hour before donating
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine before and on your plasma donation day
  • Avoid strenuous exercise an hour before plasma donation
  • Get a good night’s sleep before you donate

After:

  • Drink plenty of water to replenish any lost fluids
  • Eat a healthy meal within two hours of your visit
  • Don’t use tobacco for 30 minutes after donating
  • Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity for at least 24 hours

Is Donating Plasma Bad for You? What Are the Side Effects? 

Donating plasma usually has very minimal side effects for healthy adults. However, it’s important to learn the possible short-term and long-term side effects in the event you do experience them. 

And as always, visit your local emergency room if any symptoms worsen

Potential Short-Term Side Effects of Donating Plasma: 

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Bruising or discomfort
  • Infection or inflammation at the venipuncture site 
Tip: if you follow the preparation steps mentioned above, chances are that you won’t experience some—or hopefully any—of these short-term side effects. 

Potential Long-Term Effects of Donating Plasma:

  • For donors who donate frequently or for an extended amount of time, there is a risk for depleting immunoglobulin levels, which can lower the ability to fight off infections. 

Why Do We Get Paid to Donate Plasma? 

According to Stanford Blood Center, plasma collected at a plasma center from paid plasma donors is referred to as “source plasma.” 

Here’s why dedicated plasma centers can openly pay for plasma donations:

  • Paid plasma donations are mostly associated with for-profit companies, and source plasma is primarily used for the creation of other drugs and therapies or for research.
  • Because source plasma is being used as a component for another drug/therapy rather than directly transfused, it undergoes extensive processing including further purification and sterilization that would not be appropriate for plasma that is directly transfused—all of which helps reduce concerns of transmitting diseases through plasma. 
  • Additional donor testing criteria is required for source plasma donations which are not in place for plasma collected directly for transfusion.

In general, nonprofit blood centers that collect plasma for direct transfusions to patients do not offer payment for plasma, though there is still a need for and appreciation of donations!

How Much Money Do You Get Donating Plasma? 

Individuals are typically paid between $20 and $50 for each donation, and depending on how often you go, you can earn as much as $300 per month donating plasma.

Is It Painful to Donate Plasma?

According to WebMD, donating plasma shouldn’t hurt. Donating plasma should feel the same as a regular blood donation. You might feel a stinging sensation when the needle is inserted, but after that, the staff will do their best to make sure that you’re comfortable throughout the donation process.

Resources for Giving Plasma: 

Keep in mind that every individual is different. If you have any additional questions or concerns,  please consult a medical professional prior to donating to ensure you have a safe, comfortable, and productive donation experience. 

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