A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Donating plasma for money: Is it healthy?

Calendar with markers on the 17th and 31st for plasma donations - Donating plasma regularly

Some plasma donation centers allow regular plasma donation. This begs the question: Is donating plasma regularly healthy?

Get a quick physical assessment, sit in a chair for approximately one hour and walk out with extra cash.

Plasma donation centers across the country compensate donors. Though money probably appeals to most anyone, centers may target populations, like college students, who are in need of extra cash.

This begs the question: Is donating plasma regularly healthy?

Here’s what you should know.

Plasma center vs. blood center

“First, it’s important to realize there are two ways to donate plasma,” said Dr. Kathy Puca, senior medical director at BloodCenter of Wisconsin and consulting pathologist for Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Plasma donation centers collect source plasma for large drug companies to produce certain medications. Blood centers ask volunteer donors to donate whole blood, or the fractions of whole blood – red cells, platelets and plasma – for transfusions to patients at community hospitals.”

You may have a different experience based on where you donate.

What requirements are there to donate?

Plasma donation centers typically require donors to be at least 18 and weigh 110 pounds. At a plasma center you’ll undergo a health history questionnaire followed by a quick physical assessment including pulse, blood pressure and temperature.

Blood centers do a similar health screening and assessment. Age and weight requirements are similar, too, but individuals 16 and 17 may donate with guardian consent.

Where does my plasma go?

Plasma donation centers typically send plasma donations to pharmaceutical manufacturers. These companies batch collect plasma, further treat it to remove impurities and then convert it to medications like albumin.

The time from collection to when the therapy is ready for patient use can take seven to nine months.

In order for your plasma to be used in such manufacturing it will have to pass two separate health screenings and testing within six months.

Blood centers, after testing donations, freeze plasma. This plasma is sent to hospitals for use in a few days up to one year after collection. Plasma transfusions provide clotting factors for patients who are severely bleeding from major trauma or have large blood loss from a surgical procedure.

How often can I donate?

Plasma donation centers may advertise compensation for two donations in one week (seven days). There is no limit to the number of donations per year.

Blood centers generally allow no more than one plasma donation every four weeks (28 days) and up to 13 times per year.

“Individuals who donate more than once every four weeks should be monitored,” Puca said. “In those who donate frequently, immunoglobulin levels may drop over time, which may make it difficult for the donor to fight infections.”

What are side effects of donating plasma?

As mentioned above, there is risk of low immunoglobulin levels because it takes time for the levels to replenish.

Those who donate frequently and long term may also be at risk for anemia from incidental loss of red cells during donation.

After your donation, you may feel thirsty and tired.

“In any situation, donors should hydrate and eat a healthy, well-balanced meal with high protein to help replenish some protein lost during donation,” Puca said.

Should I donate plasma?

“We are always in need of donations, and I never want to scare away a potential donor,” Puca said. “However, the safety of the blood or plasma donor is important. Consider your health, lifestyle and associated risks. Then make the decision best for you.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates blood centers and also plasma donation centers that compensate donors.

Your primary care provider can help determine whether plasma donation will affect your health.

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