The Real Reason Not Everyone Can Donate Plasma

We hear a lot about donating blood, and that is great, as blood donations save the lives of millionsĀ of people per year. The problem is that far fewer people talk about donating plasma.

In the United States, 10,000 units of plasma are needed on a daily basis (per American Red Cross). Plasma is the liquid component that comprises half of our blood, and it promotes blood clotting and immunity, transports electrolytes to our muscles, and regulates blood pressure and pH balance. When a person donates plasma, it typically goes to patients suffering from trauma, burns, shock, cancer, liver disease, or clotting disorders. For many of these patients, plasma donation is a critical therapy for their condition, according to the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA).

Plasma donations may also be used by pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments for bleeding and immune disorders, says the American Red Cross.

Some people are not eligible to donate plasma

While plasma donation is heavily encouraged, the truth is that not everyone is eligible. Plasma donors must be at least 17 and weigh at least 110 pounds, as people who are smaller may not be able to tolerate as much blood loss (per American Red Cross).

According to the PPTA, people who want to donate plasma must first pass medical testing and screening. People are disqualified from donating plasma if it turns out that they have low iron levels or certain chronic conditions including HIV and hepatitis (per Healthline).

With so many people disqualified, it becomes all the more important for people who are eligible to consider donating plasma. The American Red Cross is particularly interested in plasma from people with an AB blood type, since the plasma of people with AB blood is the only type that can be given to people with any blood type without risking a reaction. This is especially important because many plasma transfusions take place in emergency situations in which there is not enough time to test for the recipient's blood type. Fewer than 4% of Americans have an AB blood type (per OneBlood), so people with this rare blood type are strongly encouraged to donate plasma if they are eligible.