Ashley Clay, MSPAS
PA-C Medcor Provider

One pint of blood can save up to three lives—are you donating?

Over the course of a year, 4.5 million Americans will need a blood transfusion; unfortunately, only 37% of the U.S. population are eligible to donate, and each year less than 10% actually donate. Every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

There are different types of donations: whole blood (the most common type of donation), platelets, plasma, and red blood cells.

Whole Blood

  • Whole blood contains red cells, white cells, and platelets.
  • Whole blood carries oxygen to tissues and organs.
  • The average adult body contains 10 pints of blood; when you donate blood typically only one pint is donated.
  • Whole blood can be stored for use about 42 days.
  • You can donate whole blood every 56 days.
  • The process takes 10 – 15 minutes (you’ll be at the facility about an hour).

Platelets

  • Platelets are cells that help with blood clotting (help stop bleeding).
  • They are donated most often to cancer patients, organ recipients, and individuals undergoing heart surgery.
  • Platelets can be stored for approximately five days (a much shorter shelf life than whole blood, which increases the need for donation).
  • You can donate platelets every seven days.
  • It takes approximately 2.5 – 3 hours to donate platelets. (A machine is used that collects your platelets along with plasma and then returns your red blood cells and most of your plasma back to you. It would take five whole blood donations to yield the same amount of platelets.)

Plasma

  • Plasma is a mixture of water (90%), proteins, and salt that makes up about half of blood volume.
  • It is used to treat bleeding disorders and is given to those with traumatic injuries. Plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 is currently being given as an experimental treatment to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients. This plasma is called “convalescent plasma,” because it comes from people who have developed antibodies to COVID-19 and is given to people who have not yet developed enough antibodies to help them fight off infection.
  • Plasma can be frozen for as long as one year.
  • You can donate plasma every 28 days.
  • Plasma donations take about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Red Blood Cells

  • Red blood cells are the most frequently used part of blood donation.
  • You can donate red blood cells every 16 weeks.
  • It takes about 1.5 hours to donate red blood cells. (Once again, a machine is used to collect your red blood cells and returns your plasma and platelets back to you.)

Types of Blood and Compatibility

There are eight common blood types (A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, AB-) and not all types are compatible with one another. When you donate blood, they will let you know which blood type you are. Not only is this information important for donation, but also if you are ever in need of a blood transfusion. Remember, blood types must be match before they are transfused. Take a look at these blood donation compatibility charts to learn more about the blood types that can receive your donation as well as from which blood types you can be a recipient.

What Are the Minimum Requirements to Donate?

  • You must be in good general health and feeling well the day of donation
  • 17 years or older (in most states)
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Have identification (with name, photo, and signature)
  • Donors of red blood cells must meet additional requirements

Don’t wait—schedule an appointment today to save lives!

This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition or to give medical advice. Always consult your primary care provider for healthcare instructions. External links are provided as references and do not indicate an endorsement by Medcor. External links are subject to other sites’ terms of use and privacy policies.

References

American Red Cross, “Facts About Blood and Blood Types,” https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-types.html

American Red Cross, “Types of Blood Donations,” https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations.html

American Red Cross, “Types of Blood Donations,” https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations.html

American Red Cross, “Whole Blood Donation,” https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations/whole-blood-donation.html

Cedars Sinai, “Facts About Blood Donations,” https://www.cedars-sinai.org/programs/blood-donor-services/about-donation.html

Community Blood Center, “Blood Facts,” http://givingblood.org/about-blood/blood-facts.aspx