Types of Donation: Blood Donation

Donate blood, save a life. Learn more about saving lives through blood donation.

What’s the blood donation process? How frequently can I donate blood? Find these answers and everything you need to know about volunteering to donate blood below.

 

The Blood Donation Process

Giving blood is a quick, simple way to give back to your community. The donation process from the time you arrive to the time you leave is about an hour, but the actual donation time is only 8-10 minutes. Here’s how to have a great experience!

Prepare for Blood Donation

Find a convenient donation location and time for you.

Helpful Hints

  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat a healthy meal at least one hour before donating.
  • Be well hydrated before your donation.
  • Make sure you bring verification of your identity — a driver’s license, donor ID card or government-issued ID card — showing your name and birthdate.

Registration

  • Sign in and have your identification ready!
  • A donor specialist will get you started on a questionnaire on a tablet related to your health, travel and other risk factors. (If you’d like more information about some of the questions, visit the eligibility section.) 

Medical Review

  • The donor specialist will ask follow-up questions regarding your answers to the questionnaire to ensure that donating is right for you and safe for patients. Your answers are confidential.
  • A donor specialist will conduct a “mini physical,” checking your blood pressure, temperature and pulse.
  • He or she will also take a small drop of blood from your finger to test your blood iron count.

Donating Blood Time

  • If you meet all the requirements, you’ll be escorted to a bed in the donor room.
  • The donor specialist will clean your arm and use a sterile blood donation kit to draw blood from a vein in your arm.
  • Approximately 1 pint of blood is drawn, which takes approximately 10 minutes.
  • After the donation, the donor specialist will remove the needle and ask you to apply pressure and raise your arm to prevent clotting.

Café Time: Post-Donation Refreshments

  • When you are ready, you will be escorted to our donor cafe for a bit of rest and rehydration.
  • Have a seat and let our volunteer or staff bring you your choice of water, juice, cookies and other snacks.
  • It’s a good idea to relax for at least 10 minutes so your body has time to begin replacing your donated fluids.

After Your Blood Donation

  • Enjoy your day — you’ve earned it! 
  • Drink more fluids than usual in the next few hours, but avoid alcohol.
  • Eat a nutritious meal soon after you donate.
  • Keep your bandage on for about 3 hours.
  • You may resume normal daily activities, but avoid strenuous exercise.
  • If you’re feeling funny or light-headed, lay down for a little bit and drink more fluids.

Blood Eligibility

While about 38% of the population is eligible to donate blood, fewer than 5% do. It’s easy to verify that you are eligible. If you have additional questions about blood donation, please check our Blood Donation FAQs.

 
 

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Every day, patients in your community need blood transfusions to survive and thrive. They rely on the generosity of donors like you, who help ensure a safe, healthy blood supply. Make an appointment to donate blood today.

Explore donation opportunities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

 
Blood Donation Locations
Find a Versiti blood donation center and search for a blood drive near you. Make an appointment to donate blood today.
 
Host A Blood Drive
Blood drive organizations save lives. Learn how to host a blood drive in your community with Versiti.
 
Importance of Diverse Donors
Diverse blood donations improve blood transfusion outcomes for sickle cell patients and diverse blood recipients. Make an appointment to donate blood.
 
Double Red Cells Donation
Volunteer to donate double red cells at a blood donation center near you. Learn more about donating red blood cells and make an appointment to donate today.
 
Platelet Donation
Volunteer to donate platelets at a blood and platelets donation center near you. Find out how to donate platelets and make an appointment to donate today.
 
Plasma Donation
Volunteer to donate plasma at a blood and plasma donation center near you. Find out how often you can donate plasma and make an appointment to donate today.

Coronavirus Disease

Effective March 20, 2022, masks will not be required in our donor centers due to lower COVID cases in our communities and current CDC recommendations. Masks may be required at a community blood drive if located in a facility that requires them or per host request.

Individuals must wait two days after the day of vaccination to donate blood or platelets.

The donation process itself poses no risk of infecting a donor with coronavirus. If you’d like to donate blood, you are able to as long as you’ve been symptom free for 10 days. We are monitoring and adhering to guidance from the FDA. For more information, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Donation Types

Whole blood, apheresis (platelets, plasma, red blood cells) and autologous.

Donating a component is very much like donating blood. The primary difference is that during a component donation, blood flows from a tube in your arm to a sterile chamber within an automation machine that separates the blood into various components. The needed components are collected, the remaining blood is returned to your body. 

Red blood cells may be used to help accident victims, surgical patients and people with anemia. Platelets may be used to treat leukemia and other cancer patients. Plasma is often necessary in the treatment of patients suffering from burns or shock.

Eligibility

Nearly 30 states (including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) permit 16-year-olds to donate blood with consent from a parent/guardian. These donors must be in good health and meet the minimum criteria to donate. Please refer to the height and weight chart to verify donor eligibility. By becoming a blood donor, your son or daughter shows great civic responsibility, maturity and community pride.

Most medications will not defer you from donating blood. Before you make an appointment, however, check our medication deferral list.

If you are currently taking antibiotics for an infection, you will be eligible to donate two days after your course of treatment is complete.

Pregnant women are not eligible to donate blood - your body needs all the nutrients it can get! We recommend speaking with your doctor at your 6-week postpartum appointment to verify whether or not it is OK for you to start donating blood again.

Women who are breastfeeding are eligible to donate. Most nursing mothers say that eating a healthy meal before donating and staying hydrated before, during and after helps ensure a successful donation.

Individuals must wait two days after the day of vaccination to donate blood or platelets.

The short answer is yes. There are some exceptions that may defer you from donating, including: 

  • If you spent a total of five years in France and Ireland for 5 years from 1980-2001 (risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). 
  • If you spent 3 months or more in the UK from 1980-1996.
  • If you have traveled to an area affected by malaria in the past year, we ask that you wait three months from the time you returned home before donating blood. 
  • If you have ever had malaria, you must be symptom-free for three years. 

Nearly 30 states (including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio) have permitted blood donations from 16-year-old donors and many have been accepting those donors for years.

Get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy meal and stay hydrated before, during and after your appointment.

Time restrictions between blood donations are placed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for your safety. You can donate the following:

  • Whole blood: every 56 days (8 weeks)
  • Red cells: every 112 days (16 weeks)
  • Platelets: every 14 days (2 weeks)
  • Plasma: every 28 days (4 weeks)

You can donate whole blood every 56 days or eight weeks, up to six times per year.

As long as your tattoo or piercing has healed and was done in a state-licensed facility, you are able to donate blood. If it was not done at a state-licensed facility or has not healed, a three-month waiting period is required before you are eligible to donate blood.

There are specific requirements for gay and bisexual men, but people of all genders and sexual orientations may be able to donate if FDA eligibility criteria are met. Learn more about guidelines for LGBTQ+ donations.

There are a few additional conditions that may prevent you from donating, including:

  • Receiving any blood transfusions in the last three months.
  • A history of hepatitis B or C
  • High risk for HIV/AIDS
  • If you've ever taken Tegison
  • If you used needles to take anything not prescribed by your physician in the past 3 months.

The following forms of ID with a birth date and photo will be accepted:

  • Driver’s license
  • State-issued ID card
  • Student identification card
  • Passport, visa or green card

Parental consent forms for 16-year-old donors in Indiana and Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin are available from staff at all blood drives and donor centers. High school blood drives will receive copies of consent forms from a Versiti donor recruiter prior to the scheduled drive.

Individuals aged 17 and older who are in good health and not experiencing symptoms of cold or flu may donate blood. Donors who are 16 years old may donate but must have parent/guardian permission. There is no maximum age for donation.

Donors must weigh at least 110 lbs to donate.* Donors aged 16-18 have special height and weight requirements, view the chart for more information.

*Donors in Michigan must weigh at least 112 pounds.

According to state statutes, parental consent is required for 16-year-olds, but not 17-year-olds. Some schools require parental consent forms for 17-year-old donors, but Versiti is not required by law to collect parental consent from 17-year-olds. 

This is a volunteer opportunity like no other. Versiti is the only provider of blood to the community hospitals where you live and work. Medical technology has provided many life-saving discoveries over the years, but there is still no substitute for blood. In a medical emergency, often the most important element is the availability of blood.

Your blood donation can help:

  • Trauma victims
  • Surgery patients
  • Premature babies
  • People with anemia

Donation Process

Yes. The following forms of identification with a photo and birth date are acceptable:

  • Driver’s license
  • State-issued ID
  • Student ID card
  • Passport, visa or green card

The process for donating whole blood takes about an hour from the time you walk in the door to the time you leave. This includes registration, a brief medical screening, blood collection and refreshments. 

Collecting one unit of whole blood only takes about 10 minutes; however, you can expect to spend more time donating products like red cells, platelets and plasma (also known as apheresis procedures).

All donated blood products undergo a series of tests to ensure they are safe for patients to receive and are typically available for use 24-48 hours following donation. Whole blood is separated into components (red cells, platelets and plasma) and after processing, the red cells can be stored for 42 days. Plasma can be frozen and stored for up to 12 months. Platelets expire after 5 days.

Donating blood does not hurt, though you might feel a pinch when the needle first goes into your arm. In that moment, think about the patients you're helping who rely on the generosity of people like you to feel healthy. You may experience discomfort for a few seconds, but you'll have the lasting reward of knowing you saved a life. 

Post Donation

Your body will replace the fluid portion of your blood within 24 hours. It will take a few weeks to replace the red blood cells.   

Approximately six months or more with a healthy diet, or one to two months with an iron supplement.

Replace iron loss by taking an oral iron supplement daily for 60 days immediately following your blood donation. We recommend taking an over-the-counter supplement or multivitamin containing 18mg of elemental iron per day. 

Most people feel fine after donating blood (having a snack helps - seriously!). Your body constantly makes new blood and the fluid you give will be replaced within hours. Eating a full meal before you donate will help you feel strong afterword. Drinking water and juice before and after donating also helps your body replenish lost fluids.

 Avoid strenuous activity for 12 hours after donating. If you are donating at a blood drive at your place of employment and have a hazardous or strenuous job, we recommend donating at the end of your shift.  

Babesia Testing

If you spend time outdoors or up north during Wisconsin summers, then you probably know about deer ticks. Their bites can be a nuisance for people and pets, and some deer ticks carry Lyme disease and Babesia. 

Babesia infects red blood cells and causes Babesiosis, which can be a severe, life-threatening disease in infants, elderly, people with weak immune systems and other serious health conditions. While many people who carry Babesia feel fine and show no effects, others can develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, nausea and fatigue. 

Wisconsin is a prime spot for deer ticks, along with Minnesota and the northeast part of the United States. Babesia is the most commonly documented cause of transfusion-transmitted infection. Summer, and in particularly July, is when most cases of Babesia are reported.

Blood Safety

Whole blood can be stored for 42 days before it expires and must be destroyed. Plasma can be frozen for up to 12 months. Platelets must be transfused within 5 days of being donated.  

Yes, donating blood is completely safe. You cannot contract any diseases from donating blood. A sterile kit is used once to collect your blood and is then thrown away. Versiti is committed to the safety of our donors.

Yes. The blood supply is the safest it’s ever been, especially since the implementation of nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT). NAT is a more sensitive gene-based test used to screen blood for HIV and hepatitis B and C. Fifteen tests (including 11 for infectious diseases) are performed on each unit of donated blood to ensure its safety for patients.

After we collect your blood, it is sent to Versiti labs for testing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all donated blood undergo a series of lab tests before it is given to patients. We perform 15 separate tests on each unit of donated blood, which includes tests for sexually transmitted diseases, West Nile virus, hepatitis and other illnesses. If a unit of blood passes all these tests, it is safe for patients.

Hemoglobin and Blood Count

Low blood counts can have a number of causes and they vary between women and men.

Causes for low blood count in women:

The most common cause of low blood count in women who are premenopausal, is iron deficiency caused by menstrual blood loss. Women of childbearing age have high iron requirements because of the extra iron needed for menstruation and pregnancy. Eating iron-rich foods may be sufficient to correct iron deficiency in some individuals; however, some women will need to take oral iron supplements in order to increase their blood count enough to donate blood. 

If you are a post-menopausal woman and not donating three or more times per year, your blood count may still be within the normal range for women, but not high enough to donate blood. Please note that the lower end of normal range for non-African-American women is 11.3 gm/dl and for African-American women is 10.5 gm/dl. If the test performed today indicated that your blood count is below normal range, you may need to see your personal physician for further testing to determine the cause of your low blood count.

Causes for low blood count in men:

If you are not donating three or more times per year, your deferral today indicates that you may have a medical condition which is causing your low blood count.  In men, a blood count below 13 gm/dl is considered anemic. Your personal physician can perform additional testing to confirm the cause of your low blood count and determine its cause.

Taking an iron tablet can be beneficial in helping to replace the iron lost in the process of donating blood. Multivitamins with iron generally contain small amounts of iron, but can be sufficient if taken daily. There are also a number of stronger oral iron pills available over the counter at most drug stores. These pills replace the lost iron more rapidly and are generally less expensive than multivitamins. If you choose to take an oral iron tablet, your physician or pharmacist can provide more specific information about the advantages and disadvantages of different oral iron supplements, and help you decide which may be best for you.

A low blood count is the most common reason that potential donors are not able to donate (deferral). The blood taken prior to donation provides a hemoglobin value. You were deferred because your blood count (hemoglobin value) was below the lower limit of acceptability to donate, which is 13 gm/dl for men, and 12.5 gm/dl for women.

Iron for Blood Donors

No! Hemoglobin is the protein that functions within red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron is an essential mineral important for the structure and function of hemoglobin and several other proteins in the body. 

No, if the iron supplementation is taken as recommended.

Approximately 6 months or more with a healthy diet. 1-2 months with an iron supplement.

Yes. Replace iron loss by taking an oral iron supplement daily for 60 days immediately following your blood donation. We recommend taking an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement or multivitamin containing 18mg of elemental iron per day.

Your hemoglobin level tells us how many red blood cells are circulating in your body right now, and how much will be left after you donate one unit of blood. 

When iron is measured by ferritin level, it is an indicator of the body’s total iron stores and therefore your capacity to make more red blood cells to replace the ones you’ve donated. 

Ferritin testing must be performed at a laboratory and cannot be performed at the time of your donation. Blood Centers are now evaluating how to utilize this test in assessing a donor’s ability to be a frequent blood donor.

It is important to keep a healthy iron level so your body can build new red blood cells daily and also replace those you donate. Iron is also important for normal growth and development, energy level
and brain function.
 
The Beacon Club for Blood Donors
Versiti’s Beacon Club donor rewards program celebrates the donation milestones of lifesaving blood donors. Donate blood and you are automatically part of the club.
 
Importance of Diverse Donors
Diverse blood donations improve blood transfusion outcomes for sickle cell patients and diverse blood recipients. Make an appointment to donate blood.
 
LGBTQ+ Donor Information
Members of the LGBTQ+ community may be able to donate blood, platelets or plasma, provided that they meet FDA eligibility requirements.
 
Blood Donation Locations
Find a Versiti blood donation center and search for a blood drive near you. Make an appointment to donate blood today.