Frequently asked questions about blood donation

What's the difference between whole blood donation and apheresis?

Blood contains several components, including red cells, platelets and plasma. During a whole blood donation, you typically donate a pint (about a half liter) of whole blood. During apheresis you're hooked up to a machine that collects and separates blood components and returns unused components to you. Apheresis takes up to two hours, which is longer than it takes to donate whole blood. And with apheresis, you may donate more frequently than you can with whole blood donation.

How do blood donations help?

When you donate blood, you're helping others and giving back to your community. Donated blood benefits people in area hospitals who need blood transfusions. Donated blood helps meet many medical needs, including those of people who have lost blood due to trauma, an organ transplant or other major surgery.

There is no substitute for human blood — all transfusions use blood from a donor. And the inventory of donated blood must be constantly replenished. Platelets from a whole blood donation or apheresis are good for only five days. Red cells from a whole blood donation are good for 42 days under refrigeration.

What are the benefits for me as a blood donor?

  • The blood drives and the blood donor locations on Mayo Clinic's campuses in Jacksonville, Florida, and Rochester, Minnesota, make it easy and convenient to donate blood.
  • You'll receive a brief physical, which includes checking your temperature, blood pressure and pulse. You'll also be given a hemoglobin test.
  • Both whole blood donation and apheresis are available, which gives you options as far as the length and frequency of your donations.
  • The blood you donate will be tested for bloodborne diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV. You'll be notified if any of these tests are positive.
  • The blood you donate will be tested to determine your blood type.

How long does donation take?

  • Whole blood donation takes about 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Apheresis takes about 1 1/2 to two hours.
  • Double red cell donation takes about 30 minutes longer than a whole blood donation.

At Mayo Clinic donor centers, you'll have access to wireless internet, a television and movies during the donation process.

How often can I donate?

  • In Minnesota you can donate whole blood every 84 days, at minimum. In Florida you can donate whole blood every 56 days, at minimum. Talk with donor center staff about specific requirements.
  • Plasma donors may donate as often as every 28 days.
  • Platelet donors may donate as often as every eight days, and up to 24 times in a 12-month period.
  • Double red cell donors may donate as often as every 168 days.

Who can donate?

To donate, you must weigh at least 110 pounds (about 50 kilograms) and be at least 16 or 17 years old, depending on the law in your state. Some states allow legal minors to donate with parental permission. You must be in good health and able to pass the physical and a confidential health-history assessment to help make sure blood donation is safe for both you and the recipient of the blood.

Can I donate if I have a cold, flu or fever?

No. To donate, you must be symptom-free from cold, flu or fever on the day of donation.

Can I donate if I've tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

The Food and Drug Administration suggests waiting to donate blood for at least 14 days after a positive diagnostic test for COVID-19 without symptoms or for at least 14 days after symptoms of COVID-19 have completely cleared up. Those who have tested positive for COIVD-19 antibodies but didn't have a diagnostic test and never developed symptoms can donate without a waiting period or having a diagnostic test done before donation.

The Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program doesn't test blood donors for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Can I donate if I have traveled outside the United States in the past year?

Travel to some countries may make you 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 donor center staff.

Can I donate when I am under the care of a doctor or dentist?

You may be eligible to donate, depending on your condition. Donation is acceptable after routine teeth cleaning or dental work.

Can I donate if I am taking medication?

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 plan to donate platelets, you need to have stopped using aspirin or any aspirin-containing medicine 48 hours before your appointment. If you're taking antibiotics, you must complete the course before donating. For more information about other medications, contact the Blood Donor Program.

Can I donate if I have recently had a vaccination?

You may donate blood after most vaccinations if you're feeling well. You'll have to wait to donate for two to four weeks after being vaccinated for chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella or smallpox, or receiving the oral polio vaccine.

If you've had a COVID-19 vaccination, discuss your eligibility for donating with blood center staff.

Can I donate if I recently had a tattoo or ear or body piercing?

Getting a tattoo or piercing recently from a licensed establishment does not make you ineligible to donate blood.

What are other situations or conditions that make people ineligible to donate blood?

Some people are at high risk of bloodborne infections, which makes them ineligible to donate blood. These high-risk groups include:

  • Anyone who has used injected drugs, steroids or another substance not prescribed by a doctor in the past three months
  • Men who have had sexual contact with other men in the past three months
  • Anyone who has a congenital coagulation factor deficiency
  • Anyone who has had a positive test for HIV
  • Anyone who has engaged in sex for money or drugs in the past three months
  • Anyone who, in the past 12 months, has had close contact with — lived with or had sexual contact with — a person who has viral hepatitis
  • Anyone who has had babesiosis, a rare and severe tick-borne disease, or the parasitic infection Chagas' disease
  • Anyone who has taken the psoriasis medication etretinate (Tegison), which has been discontinued in the U.S
  • Anyone who has risk factors for the degenerative brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
  • Anyone who spent three months or more in the United Kingdom from 1980 through 1996
  • Anyone who received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom or France from 1980 to the present
  • Anyone who has spent time that adds up to five years or more in France or Ireland from 1980 to 2001

I'm afraid I'll faint when I see the needle or blood. Is there anything that I can do to prevent that from happening?

It's common to be nervous about donating blood if you've never done it before. Be assured that fainting before, during or after blood donation is rare. Staff members are skilled at making the experience as smooth as possible. It may help to not watch the needle as it is inserted, and you don't have to see the blood. While giving blood, you might access wireless internet or watch television or a movie to keep your mind occupied.

How can I prepare to donate blood?

Before donating, eat a healthy meal and drink plenty of water. Go to your donation appointment well rested and wearing a shirt with sleeves that can be rolled up above your elbows. Bring your donor card, driver's license or two other forms of ID.

In what situations do I need to contact the donor center after donating blood?

Contact the blood donor center or your doctor if you:

  • Forgot to report any important health information
  • Have signs and symptoms of an illness several days after your blood donation
  • Are diagnosed with COVID-19 within 48 hours after donating blood