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AABB > Resource Center > Blood Donation Information > Blood Donation FAQs

Blood Donation FAQs 

What are the minimum requirements to become a blood donor?

Check with your local blood bank to determine the exact requirements, but generally, you must be at least 16 years of age, a minimum of 110 pounds, and in basic good health.

Will donating blood hurt?

You may feel a slight sting in the beginning lasting only a couple of seconds, but there should be no discomfort during the donation.

Are blood donors paid?

No. Blood collected for transfusion in the US is given by volunteer blood donors.

How badly is blood needed?

Blood supplies can vary depending on the region and time of year. As donor qualifications continue to become stricter and as the donor population ages, our nation is at risk of a low blood supply. If you are eligible, your blood donations are needed.

Why are there often blood shortages?

Most blood centers strive to maintain an optimum inventory level of a three-day supply. Due to unpredictable demands from trauma incidents the inventory fluctuates hourly. When the blood supply drops below a three-day level, blood centers begin alerting local donors to increase the inventory to a safe operating level.

Can I get AIDS from donating blood?

No. There is no risk of contracting AIDS or any other disease through the donation process. Each collection kit is sterile, pre-packaged and used only once.

Do I have enough blood in my body to donate?

Yes. The body contains 10 to 12 pints of blood. Your whole blood donation is approximately one pint.

How much blood is taken?

For a whole blood donation, approximately one pint (which weighs about one pound) is collected. For a platelet donation, the amount collected depends on your height, weight and platelet count.

How much time does it take for my body to replace the blood that I donated?

Not long at all. The volume of fluids will adjust within a few hours of your donation. The red blood cells will be replaced within a few weeks.

How often may I donate?

You may donate whole blood once every 56 days, which allows plenty of time for your red cells to be replenished. Platelet (apheresis) donors may donate more frequently -- as often as once every seven days and up to 24 times per year. This is because the body replenishes platelets and plasma more quickly than red cells. Platelets will return to normal levels within about 72 hours of donating. Plasma (the liquid portion of your blood) will return to normal levels within a couple of days. Red blood cells (the oxygen-carrying cells) will take approximately two weeks to reach their normal levels.

How long until my blood is used?

Most blood donations are processed and available for use within 48 hours.

Does donated blood stay on the shelf indefinitely until it is used?

No. Each unit of whole blood normally is separated into several components. Red blood cells may be stored under refrigeration for a maximum of 42 days, or they may be frozen for up to 10 years. Red cells carry oxygen and are used to treat anemia or blood loss. Platelets are important in the control of bleeding and are generally used in patients with leukemia and other forms of cancer. Platelets are stored at room temperature and may be kept for a maximum of five days. Fresh frozen plasma, used to control bleeding due to low levels of some clotting factors, is kept in a frozen state for up to one year. Cryoprecipitated AHF, which contains only a few specific clotting factors, is made from fresh frozen plasma and may be stored frozen for up to one year. Granulocytes are sometimes used to fight infections, although their efficacy is not well established. They must be transfused within 24 hours of donation.

Other products manufactured from blood include albumin, immune globulin, specific immune globulins, and clotting factor concentrates. Commercial manufacturers commonly produce these blood products.

Are the health history questions necessary every time I donate?

To ensure the safest possible blood supply, all donors must be asked all the screening questions at each donation. The FDA requires that all blood centers conform to this practice.

What is the most common blood type?

The approximate distribution of blood types in the US blood donor population is as follows. Distribution may be different for specific racial and ethnic groups:

O Rh-positive - 39 percent
O Rh-negative - 9 percent
A Rh-positive - 31 percent
A Rh-negative - 6 percent
B Rh-positive - 9 percent
B Rh-negative - 2 percent
AB Rh-positive - 3 percent
AB Rh-negative - 1 percent

In an emergency, anyone can receive type O red blood cells, and type AB individuals can receive red blood cells of any ABO type. Therefore, people with type O blood are known as “universal donors,” and those with type AB blood are known as “universal recipients.” In addition, individuals of all types can receive type AB plasma.

Is there such thing as artificial blood?

Scientists have yet to find a successful substitute for human blood. This is why blood donors are so vital to the lives of those who are in need of blood.

What fees are associated with blood?

While donated blood is free, there are significant costs associated with collecting, testing, preparing components, labeling, storing and shipping blood; recruiting and educating donors; and quality assurance. As a result, processing fees are charged to recover costs. Processing fees for individual blood components vary considerably. Processing fees for one specific component also may vary in different geographic regions. Hospitals charge for any additional testing that may be required, such as the crossmatch, as well as for the administration of the blood.

Is there anything I should do before I donate?

Be sure to eat well at your regular mealtimes and drink plenty of fluids.

What does the term “donor deferral” mean?

Individuals disqualified from donating blood are known as "deferred" donors. A prospective donor may be deferred at any point during the collection and testing process. Whether or not a person is deferred temporarily or permanently will depend on the specific reason for disqualification (e.g., a person may be deferred temporarily because of anemia, a condition that is usually reversible). If a person is to be deferred, his or her name is entered into a list of deferred donors maintained by the blood center, often known as the "deferral registry." If a deferred donor attempts to give blood before the end of the deferral period, the donor will not be accepted for donation. Once the reason for the deferral no longer exists and the temporary deferral period has lapsed, the donor may return to the blood bank and be re-entered into the system.

Those who may be deferred include:

  • Anyone who has ever used intravenous drugs (illegal IV drugs)
  • Men who have had sexual contact with other men since 1977
  • Anyone with a positive test for HIV (AIDS virus)
  • Men and women who have engaged in sex for money or drugs since 1977
  • Anyone who has had hepatitis since his or her eleventh birthday
  • Anyone who has had babesiosis or Chagas disease
  • Anyone who has taken Tegison for psoriasis
  • Anyone who has risk factors for Crueutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) or who has a blood relative with CJD
  • Anyone who has risk factors for vCJD
  • Anyone who spent three months or more in the United Kingdom from 1980 through 1996
  • Anyone who received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom or France from 1980 to the present
  • Anyone who has spent five years in Europe from 1980 to the present.

I was recently deferred for an inconclusive Hepatitis B core test. Can you explain the reasoning behind the deferral
and when I might be eligible to donate blood again?

Antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) is an antibody that generally appears close to the onset of clinical hepatitis and may persist for years or for life. FDA recommends that blood and blood components found to be repeatedly reactive for anti-HBc should not be used for transfusion. Studies have demonstrated that transfusions of blood that is reactive for anti-HBc, but negative for Hepatitis B Surface Antigen, were associated with some cases of post-transfusion hepatitis. The numbers of transfusion recipients developing hepatitis in such circumstances are, indeed, extremely low, but FDA is committed to ensuring the safest blood supply possible. FDA has provided recommendations for a requalification method or process for the reentry of deferred donors into the donor pool based on a determination that previous tests that were repeatedly reactive for antibodies to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) were falsely positive and that there is no evidence of infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV). A copy of the May 2010 guidance document Requalification Method for Reentry of Blood Donors Deferred Because of Reactive Test Results for Antibody to Hepatitis B Core Antigen (Anti-HBc)  can be obtained from FDA's website at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/Blood/UCM210268.pdf.

If I was deferred once before, am I still ineligible to donate?

If your deferral is of a permanent nature, you will be informed. Otherwise, the deferral time depends upon the reason for deferral. Prior to each donation, you will be given a mini-physical and medical interview. At that time, it will be determined if you are eligible to donate blood on that particular day.

If I just received a flu shot, can I donate blood?

Yes. There is no waiting period to donate after receiving a flu shot.

If I have a cold or the flu, can I donate blood?

In order to donate, blood centers require that you be in generally good health (symptom-free) and recommend that you are feeling well.

Can I still donate if I have high blood pressure?

Yes, if your blood pressure in under control and within the limits set in the donation guidelines.

What if I'm taking aspirin or medication prescribed by my doctor?

Aspirin and ibuprofen will not affect a whole blood donation. Apheresis platelet donors, however, must not take aspirin or aspirin products 36 hours prior to donation. Many other medications are acceptable. It is recommended that you call the donor center ahead of time to inquire about any medications you are taking.

What if I have anemia?

You cannot give blood if you have anemia. However, this can often be a temporary condition. Your hemoglobin will be tested before you donate to make sure it is at an acceptable level.

How can I increase my iron level?

Donors may be deferred from donating due to a low hematocrit (iron) level. This restriction is for the safety of the donor and ensures that after donation, the donor's hematocrit level will still be within the normal range for a healthy adult. Since hematocrit levels can fluctuate daily, a deferral for a low hematocrit level does not mean a donor is anemic. A donor may help increase his or her hematocrit levels by eating foods high in iron such as red meat, dark green vegetables and raisins or by taking a multivitamin that contains iron.

How long will the actual donation process take?

The actual donation takes about 5-10 minutes. The entire donation process, from registration to post-donation refreshments, takes about one hour.

What types of tests are performed on donated blood?

After blood is drawn, it is tested for ABO group (blood type) and RH type (positive or negative), as well as for any unexpected red blood cell antibodies that may cause problems for the recipient. Screening tests performed are listed below:

  • Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)
  • Hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc)
  • Hepatitis C virus antibody (anti-HCV)
  • HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibody (anti-HIV-1 and anti-HIV-2)
  • HTLV-I and HTLV-II antibody (anti-HTLV-I and anti-HTLV-II)
  • Serologic test for syphilis
  • Nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT) for HIV-1 ribonucleic acid (RNA), HCV RNA and WNV RNA
  • Nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT) for HBV deoxyribonucleic acid
  • Anitbody test for Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas' disease 

How will I feel after I donate?

Most people feel great after giving blood. If you feel any abnormal symptoms, let a staff member at the blood donation center or blood drive know. You should avoid lifting heavy objects or strenuous exercise for the next 24 hours; otherwise you can resume full activity as long as you feel well.

Where can I donate blood?

Use the AABB blood bank locator to find the blood donation center nearest you, and then contact the blood bank to make an appointment and find out what they require.

What can you do if you aren't eligible to donate?

While a given individual may be unable to donate, he or she may be able to recruit a suitable donor. Blood banks are always in need of volunteers to assist at blood draws or to organize mobile blood drives. In addition, monetary donations are always welcome to help ensure that blood banks can continue to provide safe blood to those in need.

How can I host a blood drive at my work, school or church?

Use the AABB blood bank locator to find the blood donation center nearest you, and then contact the blood center to find out what they require.

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