Plasma donation is a simple way to help save lives. Plasma contains proteins that help fight diseases and is used to make lifesaving medicines for people with bleeding disorders, immune deficiencies, and severe burns. However, not everyone is eligible to donate plasma. There are several factors that can stop you from being able to donate plasma.
In order to donate plasma, you must be at least 18 years old. This is the legal age of consent required to donate without parental permission. Plasma donation centers cannot accept donations from minors under the age of 18 due to safety and legal liability reasons.
Some plasma donation centers may have an upper age limit as well, typically around age 65 or 70. This is because the plasma donation process can become more difficult for older donors. The veins of elderly donors are often smaller and more difficult to access. Older donors may also be more likely to experience side effects like fainting or dizziness after donating.
So if you are under 18 or over the maximum age set by the plasma center, you will not be able to donate plasma. Make sure to check the age requirements at your local plasma donation center before your first visit.
Donors must meet a minimum weight requirement to donate plasma. This requirement helps ensure the safety of donors during the plasma removal process.
The minimum weight to donate plasma is 110 pounds (50 kg). Donors who weigh less than 110 pounds are at higher risk of experiencing side effects like fainting or dizziness after plasma donation. Their small blood volume makes it more difficult to safely remove the plasma.
When you check-in for your plasma donation appointment, the staff will weigh you on a scale. If you do not meet the 110 pound minimum, you will have to reschedule your donation for a later date once you gain more weight.
Medical Conditions That Prevent Plasma Donation
Plasma donors must be in good general health to safely donate. Certain medical conditions can disqualify you from donating plasma, either permanently or temporarily. Some examples of disqualifying medical conditions include:
- HIV/AIDS: You cannot donate plasma if you have HIV or AIDS. This blood-borne disease can be transmitted through plasma products and endanger the health of recipients.
- Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C: Like HIV, hepatitis B and C are viruses that can spread through blood and plasma. You cannot donate plasma if you test positive for hepatitis B or C antibodies.
- Tuberculosis: Active tuberculosis infections prevent plasma donation. You must complete treatment and be cleared by a doctor before donating plasma.
- Malaria: If you have traveled to a malaria risk area recently, you may need to defer plasma donation for a period of time. Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria can be found in the blood.
- Tattoos and Piercings: Getting a new tattoo or piercing requires deferral from plasma donation for 12 months. This allows time for any infections from the process to resolve.
- Cancer: You cannot donate plasma if you have any active cancer diagnoses. Cancer patients are immunocompromised and cannot safely donate.
- Heart Disease: Significant heart conditions like heart failure, congenital heart defects, and history of heart attack will disqualify you from donating plasma.
- High Blood Pressure: If your blood pressure exceeds 180/110 mmHg, it is unsafe for you to donate plasma. Controlled high blood pressure may be acceptable.
- Sickle Cell Disease: The abnormal blood cells in sickle cell disease can cause complications during plasma donation.
- Recent Surgery: Major surgeries require deferral from plasma donation for 1 year. Minor surgeries may require shorter deferral periods.
Some additional medical conditions that can temporarily or permanently disqualify plasma donors:
- Bleeding disorders
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Blood clots
- History of fainting
Always inform the plasma donation staff about your full medical history. They will determine if any health conditions you have make donating plasma unsafe for you at this time. Some conditions may require doctor’s notes showing you have recovered and are healthy enough to donate plasma.
Medications That Prevent Plasma Donations
Many common prescription and over-the-counter medications can also affect plasma donor eligibility. Medications of concern include:
- Blood thinners: Medications like warfarin and heparin thin the blood and raise the risk of bruising and bleeding complications during plasma donation.
- Antidepressants: Some antidepressant medications like MAOIs can interact with chemicals used during plasma extraction.
- Allergy medications: Antihistamines like diphenhydramine often cause drowsiness and low blood pressure, making plasma donation difficult.
- Acne medications: Isotretinoin and other acne treatments can cause birth defects, so donors must wait 1 month after taking them to donate plasma.
- Hair loss treatments: Finasteride and dutasteride may be unsuitable for some plasma donation programs.
- Erectile dysfunction drugs: Sildenafil, tadalafil, and other ED drugs may not be permitted due to possible interactions.
- Recreational drugs: Marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drugs lead to deferral for 12 months after last usage.
- Investigational drugs: Donors cannot take part in certain clinical trials for new drugs and donate plasma simultaneously.
Always disclose all prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking when donating plasma. The staff needs to review medications for safety. Some medications may require a short waiting period before you become eligible to donate plasma again.
Travel That Prevents Plasma Donation
Donors who have traveled to certain countries may need to defer plasma donation for a period of time. This temporary deferral helps prevent spread of diseases like malaria, Chagas disease, and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Countries of concern include:
- Most countries in Africa
- Much of South and Central America
- The Caribbean
- Parts of Asia including India and Thailand
- The United Kingdom due to mad cow disease risks
The deferral period after returning from these destinations is typically 12 months. Other countries may have shorter deferral periods based on assessed infectious disease risks there.
Always disclose any international travel to the plasma center staff. Even if you feel perfectly healthy, pathogens from other countries can linger in your plasma. Waiting to donate reduces the chance of transmitting infections.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Prevent Plasma Donation
Women who are currently pregnant or breastfeeding a child cannot donate plasma.
Pregnancy poses risks to both mother and baby related to plasma donation. The fluid shifts that occur during plasma removal can potentially reduce blood flow to the uterus. There are also risks if antibodies from the mother enter the plasma and cause Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn.
After giving birth, women must wait 6 weeks before donating plasma again. Breastfeeding is another disqualifying condition due to potential risks from medications or viruses passing through breastmilk to the infant.
Once a woman is no longer pregnant or breastfeeding, she can become eligible to donate plasma again. Make sure to inform the donation center staff about your pregnancy and nursing status.
Positive HIV Tests Permanently Defer Donors
One of the most common permanent deferrals from plasma donation is testing positive for HIV. As noted above, HIV cannot be transmitted through plasma products, so all donations are screened for HIV antibodies.
If this screening test comes back positive, even if you feel healthy, you will no longer be able to donate plasma. Repeat testing will be done to confirm the results. If the HIV diagnosis is certain, you will be permanently deferred.
In rare cases, the screening test can give a false positive result. Your plasma center will investigate other potential causes like recent flu vaccinations. But if HIV is definitively confirmed, you cannot donate for the safety of patients receiving plasma treatments.
Make sure you understand the risks and undergo testing before starting plasma donations. A positive HIV test means you will need to find other ways to help your community.
Illegal Drug Use
Use of illegal recreational drugs leads to deferral from plasma donation for 12 months. Drugs like marijuana, cocaine, opioids, methamphetamines, and hallucinogens can all disqualify you from donating plasma.
This deferral rule exists because:
- Illegal drugs can be transmitted through plasma to recipients
- Drug use raises safety concerns related to needle procedures
- Drug users have higher rates of infections like HIV and hepatitis
If evidence of illegal drugs is found in your plasma through testing, you will be banned for at least 12 months. You will need to undergo rehabilitation treatment and demonstrate sobriety before being allowed to donate plasma again.
Some plasma centers may reject prior drug users permanently due to elevated infection risks. Always be honest about any history of illegal drug use to avoid putting others at risk.
Other Behaviors That Can Prevent Plasma Donation
Some additional behaviors that are grounds for deferral include:
- Having sex with an HIV positive partner: Requires 12 month deferral due to HIV exposure risks.
- Having sex in exchange for money or drugs (prostitution): Possible exposure to HIV and other infections leads to 12 month deferral.
- Men who have sex with other men: May need to defer donating for 12 months depending on sexual history.
- Injection drug use: Sharing needles raises risks of transmitting infections through plasma. Requires 12 month deferral.
- Incarceration: People who have spent 72 consecutive hours or more in jail/prison cannot donate plasma for 12 months after release. This population has higher disease rates.
- Getting a tattoo or body piercing: Any tattoos or piercings done in the last 12 months require waiting before you can donate plasma. This allows time for infections to develop.
- Having a blood transfusion: You cannot donate plasma for 12 months after receiving a blood transfusion due to risks of infection. This includes transfusions of whole blood, red cells, platelets, and plasma.
Always answer screening questions at the plasma donation center honestly. Dishonest answers that cover up any high-risk behaviors could potentially endanger the lives of plasma product recipients. Even if you feel embarrassed or ashamed about past behaviors, it is better to be deferred temporarily rather than transmit serious diseases.