Qualifications for Plasma Donation and What to Expect When Donating

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on October 08, 2023
3 min read

Donating plasma is an important, voluntary act that can help save lives. Like donated blood, your plasma is used in trauma situations in hospitals to help those in need. Plasma helps to stop bleeding during emergency situations. 

If you’re thinking about donating plasma, here’s what you need to know.

Donating plasma is similar to donating blood. As long as you donate in a certified center, donating plasma is completely safe. If you’re considering donating plasma, the first thing you should do is look for a center that is certified by the International Quality Plasma Program (IQPP). These centers are sterile and staffed by highly-trained professionals. All of the equipment that’s used in the plasma collection process is sterilized and cleaned after use. Any equipment that comes into contact with you as a donor is only used one time to ensure cleanliness and prevent the possibility of transmitting any kind of bloodborne pathogens.

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 its best to make sure that you’re comfortable throughout the donation process.

There are different requirements for the various types of blood donations. These requirements are put in place to guarantee your safety and health. In order to donate plasma, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be in good overall health
  • Weigh 110 pounds or more (50 kilograms)
  • Pass a medical screening
  • Test negative for viruses that can be passed through blood, like HIV and hepatitis
  • Complete a medical history screening

Some states allow teens ages 16 or older to donate with the permission of a parent.

The ideal blood types for plasma donation are AB positive and AB negative. You can donate plasma every 28 days, no more than 13 times in a year.

There are those in high-risk groups who should not donate blood or plasma. They include people who have:

  • Injected drugs or steroids not prescribed by a doctor within the last three months
  • Tested positive for HIV
  • Had close contact in the last 12 months with someone who had viral hepatitis
  • A congenital blood clotting condition
  • Babesiosis, a disease from ticks, or Chagas disease (a parasitic infection)

On the day of your plasma donation appointment, make sure that you get some rest and have a healthy breakfast. You should drink lots of fluids, but avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol, as these drinks actually dehydrate you. Opt for water or juice instead. You should not eat anything oily or greasy before donating plasma since this can affect the quality of your plasma.

It’s normal to feel a little nervous about donating plasma if you’ve never done it before. Here’s what to expect:

Getting started. Before you donate plasma, you need to fill out a medical history form. This form may ask you about some behaviors that carry a higher risk of bloodborne viruses. Next, a staff member will give you a medical screening. This will check your pulse, blood pressure, and body temperature.

A staff member will give you a finger-prick test that checks the levels of protein and hemoglobin in your blood. This is done each time that you donate plasma.

How long does it take to donate plasma? In total, you can plan to spend about 90 minutes at your plasma donation appointment. This includes registration, screening, and donation. The donation itself takes about 25 minutes.

After you’ve finished the screening process, you’ll sit back in a reclining chair, and a pressure cuff or tourniquet will be put around your arm to help find your veins. The pressure also helps to fill up the donation bag faster. A trained staff member will then place the needle into your arm using clean, sterile equipment. During this time you can relax, listen to music, or watch videos to pass the time.

Once you’ve finished the donation process, you should have a snack and drink some fluids. This is often provided to you at the donation center. You should avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for the rest of the day to let yourself recover.