Can You Donate Plasma If You Have Asthma?


Matthew McClain

Asthmatics can donate plasma if they are asymptomatic and not taking oral or injected steroids. This means that they must not be having any difficulty breathing at the time of donation and they must not have taken oral or injected steroids in the past 6 months.

Donation Eligibility Requirements For Asthma

Many plasma donation centers have health requirements that donors must meet to ensure the safety of both donors and recipients. Asthma is a complex condition that can impact a donor’s eligibility and experience.

Plasma centers look for donors who are in generally good health with no medical conditions that could be exacerbated by the physical and mental stresses of plasma donation. For asthma patients, centers will want to confirm their asthma is stable and well-controlled, and will not likely be triggered by the donation process.

Asthma screening involves a medical history and physical exam. Centers will ask about:

  • Asthma severity – mild intermittent or moderate-severe persistent?
  • Medications used – rescue inhalers, steroids, biologics?
  • Recent asthma attacks – how often and how severe?
  • Lung function tests – what are recent FEV1 and PEF values?
  • Symptom control – how much wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, activity limitation?

Some centers have a blanket policy against donors with asthma due to potential risks. But others consider patients on a case-by-case basis depending on asthma history and control.

Donors with well-controlled, milder asthma who only require occasional rescue inhalers may be eligible. Those whose asthma requires frequent medication adjustments, oral steroids or hospitalizations will likely be deferred.

For eligible donors, centers will monitor closely for troubling symptoms. Donors should inform staff of any shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing or wheezing during or after donation. Centers may deny donors who develop asthma symptoms until their condition stabilizes.

With clear communication, proper screening and close monitoring, many asthma patients with well-controlled symptoms may be able to donate plasma safely. But deferral remains the safest option for those with moderate-severe or poorly controlled asthma.

Impact of Asthma on Donation

Plasma donation involves physical and mental stresses that can potentially trigger asthma symptoms in donors with the condition. Understanding how asthma may impact the donation process is important for both donors and plasma centers.

1. Side Effects That May Trigger Asthma

The needle sticks, reclined position and medications given during plasma donation can cause side effects that worsen asthma in susceptible donors:

  • Anxiety from needles, sights of blood, reclined position – can trigger panic attacks which worsen asthma
  • Vasovagal response – low blood pressure, nausea and rapid heart rate, which can onset difficulty breathing
  • Coughing from irritation or dryness caused by plasma apheresis machine
  • Dehydration from excess fluid loss – leaves less moisture in lungs, harder to breathe deeply

2. Monitoring for Warning Signs

Asthma donors should be monitored closely for:

  • Wheezing or high-pitched breathing sounds
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty taking full, deep breaths
  • Chest tightness
    • Coughing that won’t go away or gets worse
  • Use of rescue inhaler more frequently

These could be early signs of an asthma attack and require immediate medical attention. Staff should be trained to recognize and respond quickly to warning signs in donors with asthma.

3. Communicating Your Needs

Donors with asthma should inform staff before and during their donation:

  • Of their asthma condition and any medications used
  • If they have a “rescue plan” for worsening symptoms
  • Of any anxiety surrounding needles, blood or the reclined position
  • If they experience any early warning signs during donation

This allows staff to monitor the donor more closely, make adjustments to the donation process, and intervene quickly if signs of an asthma attack appear. Open communication is key to a safe donation experience for those with asthma.

4. Possibility of Deferral

If asthma symptoms do occur, donors may need to be temporarily or permanently deferred from future donations to protect their health.

Donation Safety for Asthma Patients

While asthma does not automatically disqualify someone from plasma donation, additional precautions are needed to ensure the safety of donors with this chronic condition.

1. Pre-Donation Checkup

Prior to donating, asthma patients should:

  • See their asthma doctor for an evaluation, especially if asthma is not well-controlled
  • Adjust medications under doctor’s guidance to achieve optimal symptom control
  • Avoid donating for 48 hours after using oral steroids and 1 week after an asthma attack

This helps minimize risks and ensures the donor’s asthma is as stable as possible before donating plasma.

2. Controlling Asthma Symptoms

To have a safe and comfortable donation experience, donors should:

  • Take rescue inhaler at least 30 minutes before donation
  • Use asthma controller medications as directed before donation
  • Avoid triggers that may worsen asthma in the hours before donation (e.g. exercises, pets, cold air)
  • Practice relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety

This can help keep asthma symptoms under control during the donation process.

3. Measures During Donation

Staff can take these steps to mitigate risks for asthma donors:

  • Monitor donor closely for warning signs of an asthma attack
  • Slow down the donation process if the donor feels anxious or short of breath
  • Offer breathing exercises or use of a fan to keep air moist
  • Provide rescue inhaler or nebulizer treatment quickly if needed

Open communication and a willingness to make adjustments can help make donation a safe experience for those with well-managed asthma.

4. Deferral

If asthma symptoms occur during donation and do not quickly improve, staff should recommend deferral to protect the donor’s health, rescheduling the donation for a later time when asthma is better controlled.

Preparation Before Donating

With proper planning and preparation, patients with controlled asthma may be able to safely donate plasma. Several steps can be taken in the days and hours before donation to maximize safety and comfort.

1. Consult Your Doctor

If you have not seen your asthma doctor recently or your asthma seems unstable, schedule an appointment to:

  • Ensure your asthma is as well-controlled as possible
  • Adjust medications if needed to minimize risks
  • Get advice on whether donation is safe for you at this time
  • Discuss a “rescue plan” if symptoms worsen during donation

Your primary care doctor can also evaluate whether you are healthy enough for donation.

2. Adjust Your Medications

Consider these medication changes before donating:

  • Increase dosage of maintenance inhalers 1-2 days prior if symptoms are not optimal
  • Take rescue inhaler at least 30 minutes before arriving for donation
  • Avoid oral steroids for 48 hours and bronchodilators for 24 hours before donation
  • Ask your doctor if a temporary increase in steroids is needed before donation

Any adjustments should be done under your doctor’s supervision and tailored to your specific asthma.

3. Minimize Triggers

The day before and day of donation:

  • Avoid vigorous exercise and activities that trigger breathlessness
  • Keep indoor air moist by using a humidifier
  • Limit exposure to known asthma triggers (e.g. pets, fragrances, tobacco smoke)
  • Reduce stress and practice relaxation techniques to calm anxiety

These steps can help minimize your asthma symptoms so they are less likely to flare up during plasma donation.

4. Have a Rescue Plan

Prepare for the possibility that asthma symptoms do occur during donation. Bring your rescue inhaler and know when to notify staff so they can take appropriate actions to ensure your safety.

While asthma should not automatically disqualify someone from donating plasma, additional precautions are needed to ensure the safety of donors with this condition. For those with mild, well-controlled asthma, donation may be possible with close monitoring and open communication.

Donors and centers should have a low threshold for deferral if asthma symptoms appear during donation. The health of the donor must take priority over collection goals. With optimal asthma control, proper planning and staff trained to recognize warning signs, many patients with asthma can donate plasma safely. But those with moderate-severe or poorly controlled asthma are usually better off avoiding donation.

Each donor must decide if the benefits of plasma donation outweigh any potential risks for their specific asthma. Consultation with your asthma doctor is key to making an informed decision. With the right precautions and medication adjustments in place, plasma donation may be a realistic option for maintaining your health while helping others.


1. Can I donate plasma if I use an inhaler?

Using a rescue inhaler alone does not disqualify you, but indicates your asthma may not be fully controlled. Donation is safest if you have well-managed, mild asthma treated with infrequent inhaler use. Using controllers before donation can help. Still, inform staff of your inhaler and asthma history so they can monitor you closely.

2. Will plasma donation trigger my asthma?

Donation can potentially trigger asthma symptoms in susceptible patients due to needles, anxiety, dehydration and other side effects. The risk is higher for those with uncontrolled or moderate-severe asthma. However, with proper preparation and staff monitoring, many mild asthma patients can donate plasma safely.

3. What plasma donation side effects should I watch for?

Monitor for early asthma warning signs like coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Anxiety, fast heart rate, nausea and low blood pressure can also potentially worsen asthma. Inform staff right away if any of these symptoms appear so they can take appropriate action.

4. How long should I wait after an asthma attack?

It is best to avoid donating for at least 1 week after an asthma attack to allow symptoms to fully resolve. Some centers recommend waiting 2-4 weeks or longer depending on attack severity. The more severe the attack, the longer you should delay donating to ensure your asthma has stabilized. Consult your doctor before attempting to donate after an asthma exacerbation.

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