What should I know about donating plasma?

Plasma donation may not be as common as blood donation, although the two procedures are quite similar. Plasma is part of your blood, and the main difference in the procedure is that your red blood cells are separated from the plasma through a process called plasmapheresis. When you donate plasma, some of the red blood cells are recycled back into the body after being separated from the plasma.

There are some amazing things that can be done with blood plasma. It can help people who have difficulties with blood clotting, for example. Much of the collected blood plasma can be used by pharmaceutical companies, and when you donate plasma, you usually can't determine how your plasma is used. Another difference is that many people get paid for plasma donation, which is generally not the case with blood donation. The compensation is not huge, but can amount to around $15-25 US Dollars (USD) per donation. Not all collectors pay, and some organizations like the American Red Cross encourage you to donate without paying.

The collection centers screen for certain types of things. If you have recently traveled to a foreign country, are promiscuous, or use intravenous drugs, you have the possibility of transmitting the disease to others. Do not lie about these behaviors, as your plasma used on another person could have potentially fatal consequences. The collection centers will also test your health, weight, behavior, any prescription medications you may be taking, and will likely test your blood for anemia. Some centers also test for high blood sugar.

Some people participate in plasma donation twice a week, and in theory, if you are very healthy, your plasma should be fully recovered within 48 hours of donating. However, organizations like the Red Cross will only allow you to donate once a month or twelve times a year. Other collection centers will allow people to donate twice a week, but this may not be in the best interest of your health. There is some evidence that regular weekly plasma donation can affect health, energy, and immunity. Getting $25 twice a week may not be worth it if you get sick or feel burned out.

When you make a plasma donation, most centers say the entire process can take up to two hours. Frequent donors can be in and out of a center in about 45 minutes to an hour. You will need a snack after making a donation and most centers have cookies and juice available. Bring something to read and don't forget to use the bathroom before giving plasma because you can't stop the process in the middle.

Some people see plasma donation as something only desperate people do, but this is not the case. There are many students who donate plasma, and some people will donate plasma to help sick family members in need. If you are considering donating plasma as a source of income, keep in mind that you can only earn a limited amount of income and many plasma centers have much looser restrictions than the Red Cross. The ability to donate more frequently does not always benefit donors.

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