Frequently asked questions about blood donation

Who can donate?
Donors must weigh at least 110 pounds and be at least 17 years old. In Minnesota, 16-years-olds may donate with written consent from a parent or guardian. During your donation appointment, you will complete a brief health questionnaire to make sure blood donation is safe for you and the recipient of your blood.

What's the difference between whole blood donation and automated donation (apheresis)?
Blood contains several components: red blood cells, platelets, white blood cells and plasma. During a whole blood donation, donors typically donate approximately 1 pint of blood. During platelet or plasma donation, your blood is collected and then separated into its components by a machine; the machine keeps the platelets or plasma and returns the rest to you. Your blood stays confined within a single-use sterile tubing kit and sterile equipment, so the process is completely safe. This procedure allows you to donate more frequently.

How long does donation take?

  • Whole blood donation takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Donating plasma or platelets (called apheresis or automated donation) takes about 1 1/2 to two hours. The Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester provides televisions, video on demand and wireless Internet access for donors to use during donations.

How often may I donate?

  • You can donate whole blood as often as every 84 days at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester.
  • Plasma donors may donate as often as every 28 days.
  • Platelets donors may donate as frequently as every eight days, and up to 24 times in a 12-month period.
  • Double Red Cell donors maybe donate as often as every 168 days.

Can I donate if I have a cold, flu or fever?
You must be symptom-free from cold, flu or fever on the day of donation.

Can I donate if I have traveled outside the United States in the past year?
Travel to most countries will not prevent you from donating blood. However, travel to some foreign countries may make donors ineligible to donate blood for varying periods of time, depending on whether certain diseases such as malaria are common in the country visited. The criteria concerning foreign travel are subject to change, so please discuss your eligibility with staff at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester.

I am under the care of a doctor or dentist for more than routine checkups. Can I donate?
You may still be eligible to donate, depending on your condition. Donation is acceptable after routine teeth cleaning or dental work. Contact the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester for further details.

Can I donate if I am taking medication (including over-the-counter medicines)?
Most medications do not prevent you from donating blood. Common medications such as those used to control blood pressure, birth control pills and over-the-counter medications do not affect your eligibility. If you have recently taken antibiotics, you must have completed the course prior to donating. If you are taking any medications from this Medication Deferral List (PDF), please contact us.

Can I donate if I have recently had a vaccination?
Donation is acceptable following most vaccinations as long as you are feeling well. Donors vaccinated for chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella and smallpox or who have received the oral polio vaccine must wait two to four weeks after vaccination.

Can I donate if I recently had a tattoo or ear or body piercing?
Donors with tattoos or ear or body piercings need to speak to Blood Donor Center staff to determine eligibility.

What should I do before I donate?
Before donating, you should eat a good meal and drink plenty of fluids.

Where can I donate?
You can donate at any of our three permanent locations — at the Hilton Building, at Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus and at IBM (IBM staff only) — or visit a blood drive site in your neighborhood.

What if I have a question not answered here?
Contact the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester at donateblood@mayo.edu or 507-284-4475