Is giving blood safe?
Is donated blood safe?
The blood supply in the U.S. is safer today than ever before. Memorial Blood Centers, and all other blood banks, are carefully monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and closely follow multiple levels of safeguarding measures, including:
- Comprehensive evaluation of all donors' medical history to exclude donors who may have been exposed to infectious agents transmitted by blood. (see iDonate Interview)
- Physical examination of the donor
- Safe donation procedures using sterile supplies
- Comprehensive laboratory testing and product labeling
The FDA regulates every step of blood preparation and visits Memorial Blood Centers every year to ensure that each unit of blood is safe for patients.
What if I'm afraid of needles?
Many people feel that way before they donate blood for the first time. However, you will only feel a slight initial pinch when the needle is inserted, and your life-giving donation is complete in 10 minutes or less. Our trained staff is there to help you and answer your questions. You’ll find the impact of your courageous act—saving a life—extremely rewarding, compared to a split-second pinch of the skin.
What happens to my blood after I give?
Once you roll up your sleeve and donate, it is processed and tested before it goes to save a patient’s life. Learn more about the Journey your donated blood takes after you donate.
Who does my blood help?
Patients in your community with different illnesses and disorders, accident and burn victims—essentially, one of every seven patients entering one of our local hospitals can be helped by your red blood cells, platelets, or plasma.
How often can I donate?
Because blood is the ultimate renewable resource, you can donate Whole Blood three to four times per year. In addition, you may qualify to make other types of donations:
- Platelets are typically replaced in the body within 24 hours and can be donated every two weeks, or up to 24 times per year. Two days after each platelet donation, you also can return to donate whole blood.
- Double red cells can be donated two times per year (approximately every six months), during which two units of red blood cells are collected in a single appointment as an automated process. In just two annual donations, you can contribute the same number of life-saving red cells as you would from four whole blood donations—in half the visit!
- Plasma can be donated every 28 days and is needed from all male donors with type AB and A+ blood. Two days after each plasma donation, you can return to donate whole blood.
How much time does it take to make a donation?
In a single, one-hour appointment that includes registration and a mini-physical, the actual donation time is only about 10 minutes.
Do I receive payment for my donation?
No. All donations made through Memorial Blood Centers are voluntary. In fact, blood that is collected from people who have been paid cannot be used for transfusion.
How old do I have to be to donate blood?
Donating blood—the ultimate renewable resource—is safe & convenient when you are:
- In good health
- 17 years or older—16 with written Parental Consent (PDF)
- Weigh at least 110 pounds*
- Off antibiotics for 24 hours, unless taken daily for skin condition
- Symptom-free for at least 3 days following a cold or flu
* There are specific height and weight restrictions for 16-18 year-old female donors. Call 1-888-GIVE-BLD for details.
Do I have enough blood in my body to donate?
Yes. The body contains 10 to 12 pints of blood, and only about one pint is collected during your whole blood donation. Fortunately, your body constantly replaces blood—making it the ultimate renewable resource.
How much blood is taken during a donation?
For a whole blood donation, approximately one pint (about two cups) is collected. For platelet, double red cell, and plasma-specific donations, the amount collected depends on your height, weight, and other factors.
How much time does it take for my body to replace the donated blood?
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 and platelets within 24 hours.
What happens if I have anemia or a low iron level?
Everyone who donates blood receives a mini-physical prior to blood donation. Your pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and hemoglobin will be checked. Even if you previously were found to be anemic (low hemoglobin), you may be able to donate now. Anemia usually isn’t a permanent condition.
The role iron plays in blood donation
What if I'm taking medication?
You probably can still donate. If you’re unsure about your condition and the medications you are taking, please call Memorial Blood Centers at 1-888-GIVE-BLD (888-448-3253). A member of our staff will be happy to help you determine your eligibility.
How long does blood last?
Red blood cells must be used within 42 days, platelets within five days. Plasma can be frozen for up to one year. Blood products expire and must be constantly replenished. Volunteer donors help Memorial Blood Centers ensure that blood is available at all times, and regular donations help ensure that blood is available for patients when they need it—especially in an emergency.
What is an autologous blood transfusion?
What if I'm busy and don’t have free time?
It doesn’t take long to save lives! If you donated whole blood as often as you can—as many as four times a year—you would be committing only about four hours every year to save lives in our community! While the entire process takes approximately one hour, including registration and a health history, the actual donation lasts only about 10 minutes. What other volunteer activity can you participate in that will have such a powerful and immediate impact?
What is directed blood transfusion?
During this procedure, a patient is transfused with blood specifically donated for him or her by a friend or family member, with a doctor's orders.
How do I know if my blood type is useful?
Every type is the right type. It’s important to ensure an adequate supply of all blood types so that we can serve our community when the need arises.
Right Type for Your Type
There isn't a blood shortage. Do I still need to donate?
Yes! Although about 7% of Minnesotans give blood—generously donating more than the national average of only 5%—Memorial Blood Centers requires more than 2,000 donations every week just to meet the needs of the 30+ local hospitals we serve. The blood that saves lives in emergencies may already be on the shelves, but a stable and readily available blood supply ensures that tomorrow’s accident victims or premature newborns will have the blood they need as well. While the demand for blood has increased over the past 10 years, the supply is not increasing fast enough to keep up with the growing demand. Statistics show that someone needs blood every two seconds – and you can help!
Are there travel restrictions?
Yes, there are some. If you’ve traveled outside of the U.S. recently, please contact us at 1-888-GIVE-BLD to ensure eligibility.
Can you complete your health history questionnaire online? Where is it located on your web site?
You can complete the health history questionnaire (called iDonate) online – in the privacy of your home or office on the day of your donation on our iDonate page.
This menu item is also found under the ‘Donate Blood’ tab in the main menu.
Where can I donate?
Donations can be made at one of our 10 Donor Centers located throughout Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. Plus, appointments can be made to donate at thousands of community-sponsored Blood Drives every year. While walk-ins are always welcome, appointments can be made in advance either online or by calling 1-888-GIVE-BLD (888-448-3253).
Why am I charged for blood at a hospital if I've donated blood?
Although we do not charge for the blood product itself, Memorial Blood Centers is reimbursed by hospitals for the costs associated with all activities involved in the process—from recruitment and screening of donors, collecting and processing each generous donation, to labeling, storage, and distribution. Among various costs, some of these may include:
- Blood collection and testing equipment and supplies
- Time and talent provided by experienced interviewers who screen potential donors, skilled phlebotomists who collect blood, highly-trained laboratory technologists who test donated blood to ensure its safety, and other professionals involved in our blood banking operations
- Vehicles from our bloodmobile fleet and operating overhead for our donor centers
Each hospital, at its discretion, will establish a fee schedule that could include additional charges related to the administration of the blood provided for transfusion and may pass on these costs to patients.
Can I schedule apheresis (double red cell, platelet and plasma) donations online?
At this time, apheresis donations cannot be scheduled online. Due to the specific eligibility requirements for apheresis donors, Memorial Blood Centers has elected to have donors call 1-888-GIVE-BLD to speak with one of our representatives to schedule all apheresis donations. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Please learn more about scheduling your...
Why does Memorial Blood Centers elect to receive plasma only from males?
In 2013, Memorial Blood Centers switched to an all-male collection strategy for plasma in an effort to eliminate nearly all risk of TRALI (Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury)—a rare but serious complication—to plasma recipients.
Antibodies thought to cause TRALI reside in plasma. They develop when an individual is exposed to cells from another person, e.g., during pregnancy or transfusion. This means that more women than men carry these white cell antibodies. Plasma transfusions that contain these antibodies may lead to complications for patients, including severe breathing problems and sometimes death.
Women who were plasma donors prior to 2013 are encouraged to be tested to determine their eligibility to donate platelets—another specialty blood component needed for treatment of hospital patients—or to consider a double red cell donation or whole blood donation.
Visit the Right Type for Your Type to learn how you can maximize your donation.
Do you have another question?
Send It To Us and one of our expert staff of blood banking professionals will help you find out more about blood, what it does, and why it is so important to share this self-renewable resource with others in need.