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Blood Donation Types 101

What is whole blood vs platelet vs plasma donation?

There’s more than one type of donation, and finding the one that fits you best can be a rewarding part of the process. Ready to nerd out?

  • Whole blood donation: This is the most common type, during which a pint (or unit) is donated. Following your donation, the whole blood is separated into component parts: red blood cells, platelets and plasma. These can make their way to 3 different people, saving up to 3 lives. You can donate whole blood every 8 weeks.
  • Double red cell donation: If you meet a set of criteria, you can level up and donate two units of red cells. You’re double-awesome because red blood cells are the component used most frequently, and they are needed by almost every type of person who needs a transfusion. Red blood cells help accident victims, surgical patients and people with anemia, among others.You can donate double reds every 16 weeks.
  • Plasma donation (plasmapheresis): Plasma is the liquid part of the blood and contains proteins, electrolytes and other things that help the body run. It’s also used to help blood to clot. Plasma is often used to help people with liver conditions, burns, blood infections and more. You can donate plasma every 4 weeks.
  • Platelet donation (plateletpheresis): Platelets are the cells that control bleeding, and they are essential in many cases — from chemotherapy to surgery to bone marrow transplants. You can donate platelets every 2 weeks. 

The donation process for double reds, plasma and platelets is longer than for whole blood, but it’s worth it, too. You’ll have time to chat with your favorite staff member, catch up on social media, get some reading done or watch a show. You can soon go home and rest easy knowing you made an incredible impact on life in under two hours.

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