Before you show up at a plasma donation center, you will want to make sure you are eligible to donate. There are a number of requirements for plasma donation that you must meet before you can successfully donate plasma. Some of these are only required on your first visit and some are needed on every visit. The majority of these are set by the FDA so the same requirements exist across all plasma companies. Generally, these requirements fall across 3 categories:
- Donor recruitment area: Every plasma center has a defined geography where they will accept donors. If you live outside of this area, you will not be allowed to donate at that facility. Typically this will be ~30 miles around a center. To be safe, if you live 20+ miles away from a center, you should call to confirm you can donate there. Usually, the area is defined by zip codes so it should be pretty easy to confirm with a call. This is also referred to as a Community Based Donor. (First visit only)
- Proof of address: You need to provide documentation to prove you live within the donor recruitment area and in an acceptable location. Acceptable forms of proof included a driver’s license, utility bill, lease agreement, etc. (First visit only)
- Certain addresses within the donor recruitment area are not acceptable. These will be locations such as half-way houses, motels, missions, shelters, etc. Locations such as student or military housing are acceptable.
- Photo ID: You must have valid photo identification issued by a government, military or educational institution. Acceptable IDs include driver’s license, military ID, student ID, passport, green card, etc. Also, the ID can’t be expired and the names across your ID & SSN info need to be an exact match. (First visit only)
- Social Security Number: Provide documentation to verify your social security number. This will usually be your social security card, but you can also use a W2 or paystub if it has your SSN. If not a citizen, a Border Crossing ID can be used. (First visit only)
- Age: To donate plasma you must be over the age of 18. This is different from the requirement to donate blood, which is 16 in most states. (First visit only)
- There could be some additional steps if you want to start donating over the age of 65. Some companies may not let you or require approval from your doctor first. The best approach would be to check with the center prior to your first visit.
- Weight: To donate plasma you must weight at least 110 pounds. Your weight determines the amount of plasma they will take during the donation and the lowest safe range is 110 lbs. There is technically no upper limit, but the donation beds do have a weight limit of approximately 350-400 pounds. (Every visit)
- Physical Exam: During your first visit, you will need to take a physical exam by a licensed medical professional. This will usually be conducted by a nurse and it’s similar to an annual physical. They will check the same type of things, but you will not need to undress during any part of the exam. (First visit, but a physical will be performed annually afterward)
- Vein Check: Your arms will be examined to see if you have qualified veins to donate plasma. For most people, this isn’t an issue. However, if you experienced issues donating blood or providing blood samples, it may be difficult for you to donate plasma. (Every visit)
- Health Screening: Your Blood Pressure, Pulse and Temperature will be taken to make sure they fall within an approved range for donation. (Every visit)
- Blood Sample: Using a finger prick, a small blood sample will be taken to measure the protein and iron levels in your blood. (Every visit)
- Questionnaire: There are a number of questions you will need to answer about your medical, health and behavioral history prior to a donation. (Every visit, but your first visit will have a longer version and it will be shorter for future visits)
- Based on your answers, there will likely be follow up questions or additional information you may need to provide during your exam.
- Generally related to medications you are currently taking or any tattoos or piercings received in the last 12 months.
- Viral tests: You must not test positive for any for transmissible viruses including hepatitis and HIV. (Every visit)
Plasma Donation Preparation
There are some things that cannot be tested but can make your donation process go smoother and prevent issues.
- Drink plenty of water or sports drinks. Proper hydration is very important to have a successful donation. Not only does it help “plump” up your veins, but it can also potentially reduce side effects since your plasma is mostly water.
- Make sure to eat healthy foods with protein and iron 1-2 hours prior to your donation. Avoid foods high in fat.
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol use prior to your donation
- Refrain from caffeinated beverages before donating
After a successful donation, make sure to eat and re-hydrate within a few hours to help your body recover. This will also promote your body to start regenerating the plasma that you just donated.
What if I don’t meet the requirements
If you have any issues with the plasma donation requirements, this may result in a deferral. A deferral is a restriction on your ability to donate for a period of time. Depending on the issue, the timeframe can vary from 1 day to permanent. Refer to this article for more details on deferrals.