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Blood Donation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who can donate?

  • Donors must be at least 15 years old and weigh at least 114 pounds (15 and 16 year olds must have parental consent)
  • Donors must be in good health and feel well on the day of donation
  • All donors must show a photo ID at the time of donation
  • Click on this link to check our list of other Donor Requirements
  • Click on this link for information you should know before you donate.

How often can I donate?

  • Whole Blood donors may donate every 8 weeks. There are different waiting times for other types of donation:
  • Double Red Blood Cells-every 16 weeks
  • Platelets-every 2 weeks
  • Plasma-every 4 weeks

Is it safe to give blood?

  • Yes! The needle and bags used to collect the blood are used only once, then discarded. You cannot get HIV or other infectious diseases from donating blood.

May I eat before I donate?

  • It is most important to drink plenty of fluids prior to donating. It is also important tthat you continue with your normal eating habits before donating.

What should I bring with me when I come to donate?

  • You must show a photo ID, such as a Driver's License. In addition, it is helpful if you bring the following:
    • A list of medications you are taking
    • A list of places you have visited outside of the U.S. in the past 3 years

How long does it take to donate?

  • It takes about an hour to go through all of the steps to donate Whole Blood and a little longer for other donation types:
    • Registration. Give us your name, date of birth, address and other demographic information.
    • Medical Screening. Answer confidential medical history questions and have a finger stick to get an hemoglobin check from a drop of blood. Also have a blood pressure, temperature and pulse check.
    • Blood Donation. Donate a unit of whole blood through a needle in your arm in about 10 minutes. This step may be longer for different donation types.
    • Snacks. Stay 15 minutes following donation and enjoy refreshments.

Does it hurt?

  • There is a little sting when the needle is inserted, but you should be comfortable during the donation.

How will I feel after I donate?

  • Most people feel fine after donation. You will enjoy refreshments after you donate and we will instruct you to drink plenty of fluids for the next 24 hours.

Can I exercise right after donating?

  • Avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for about 24 hours after donation. Most donors can resume normal activity after that time.

Is my blood tested before it is used?

  • Every time you donate, blood samples are taken for testing. These tests include your blood type and testing for viruses such as Hepatitis and HIV. If your blood tests show that your blood may make someone sick, it will not be used and you are notified.

Why do I have to answer the same medical history questions every time I donate?

  • To make sure that we are providing the patient with the safest possible blood, the FDA requires that we ask about your medical history every time you donate.

What blood type is the universal donor?

  • Donors with type O- red blood cells are referred to as universal donors and their red blood cells can be given to any other blood type.
  • Donors with type AB+ are referred to as universal recipients and can receive red blood cells from any other blood type.
  • Donors with type AB- are universal plasma donors and can give plasma to any other blood type.

What is the most common blood type?

  • This is an average distribution of the blood types in the United States. The distribution may be different for specific ethnic groups:
    • O Rh-positive - 38 percent
    • O Rh-negative - 7 percent
    • A Rh-positive - 34 percent
    • A Rh-negative - 6 percent
    • B Rh-positive - 9 percent
    • B Rh-negative - 2 percent
    • AB Rh-positive - 3 percent
    • AB Rh-negative - 1 percent

How much blood do I have in my body?

  • As a rule, women have approximately 10 pints and men have approximately 12 pints of blood.

What do the different blood components do?

  • Plasma: Fluid portion of blood containing water, proteins, glucose, electrolytes, enzymes and hormones and most important for adequate clotting.
  • Red Cells: Carry oxygen from the lungs to all the tissues in the body and return carbon dioxide to the lungs
  • White Cells: Protect against disease and infections
  • Platelets:Small plate-shaped cells that cluster together to help clot our blood when bleeding occurs

Where does my blood go after I donate?

  • After you donate, your unit of Whole Blood is divided into different components and transfused into patients who need the specific component. Some examples of how your blood is used are:
    • Auto Accident: 50 units
    • Heart Surgery: 2 - 4 Red Blood Cells and a dose of Platelets
    • Organ Transplant: 10-20 Red Cells, 1-2 Platelets, 10-20 Cryoprecipitate, 5-10 Plasma
    • Bone Marrow Transplant: 20 Red Cells, 25-100 doses of Platelets
    • Burn - 3rd Degree: 10-30 Red Blood Cells, 10-30 Plasma, 2-5 doses of Platelets

What blood type is needed the most?

  • All blood types are needed for blood donation. We often have requests for the following:
    • All donation types - Whole Blood and Platelets
    • AB donors - Plasma
    • O, A and B donors - Red Cells

Does the San Diego Blood Bank pay donors?

  • The San Diego Blood Bank depends on the generosity of volunteer donors. Since studies have shown that the safest blood comes from volunteer donors, the State of California does not allow us to pay donors.