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Health and Fitness News

Donate & Save a Life

Do you know the difference between the four types of blood donations?

These days, the demand for blood donations is high. The pandemic has led to blood shortages, as many people are scared to leave their home, and community or workplace blood drives have been cancelled.

Even though the world is going through a pandemic, the demand for blood is still high. In fact, it may be greater than ever. People are still having surgeries, going through cancer treatments, having car accidents, or delivering premature babies who need blood. In addition, new COVID-19 treatments are showing promise that use convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from the virus.

If you’re considering donating blood, it’s important to understand the four ways you can donate: whole blood, red cells, plasma, and platelets. Here’s what you should know about each.

Whole Blood

Donating whole blood is the most common type of blood donation. It’s also the fastest and easiest way to give. Once you’ve donated, the blood taken can be divided into red and white blood cells, plasma, or platelets. Whole blood is typically needed for trauma or surgery patients.

When you donate, a pint is withdrawn over the course of 45 minutes. If you donate regularly, you can give every 56 days. To donate, you must weigh at least 110 pounds and be 17 years old (or 16 with parental consent). All blood types are accepted.

Red Cells

Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body and exchange it for carbon dioxide. A red-cell donation means you’re giving a concentration of red blood cells. Blood is withdrawn, the red blood cells are removed, and your platelets and plasma are immediately and safely returned to your body. This type of blood is used for people needing blood transfusions, trauma patients, people with sickle cell anemia, newborns, and people suffering blood loss.

Donors can give every 112 days and up to three times a year. The process takes about 90 minutes. To give red blood cells, you must be at least 17 years old and your hemoglobin level must be at least 13.3. A negative, B negative, O positive, and O negative blood types are all accepted.


Platelets have the important job of helping blood to form clots in order to stop bleeding. Patients with severe injuries, life-threatening illnesses, and cancer are in need of platelets.

As you donate platelets, a machine collects the blood, holds onto the platelets and some plasma, and returns the red blood cells and left over plasma back to your body. Platelet donations are important, since it takes five whole-blood donations to derive one transfusable unit of platelets.

You can donate platelets every seven days and up to 24 times a year. The process takes two to three hours. Donors must be at least 17 years old and have a platelet count of at least 150. B positive, O positive, A positive, A negative, AB positive, and AB negative blood types are taken.


Plasma is the liquid part of blood that delivers water and nutrients to the body. It’s donated in a similar way to platelets and red cells, and is used by burn victims, trauma patients, and individuals with bleeding disorders.

During the donation process, blood is taken using an automated machine that separates plasma from the red cells and platelets and returns those components back to your body. The process takes about an hour and a half, and donors can give every 28 days, up to 13 times a year. To give plasma, you must be 17 years old and have either AB positive or AB negative blood. Females who have previously been pregnant must first be tested for HLA (human leukocyte antigen).

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