Help save lives. Learn how long it takes to donate blood, how old you have to be to donate blood, how often you can donate blood, and where to give blood.
There are many reasons to donate blood. Every single day, blood transfusions save lives in emergency rooms and hospitals in the U.S. In all, over 14 million transfusions are given to about five million Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some people donate blood for themselves, too. Called an autologous donation, this means you donate blood for yourself before you have surgery or another planned medical procedure, in case you need a transfusion. In addition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Blood Bank depends on donated blood to treat NIH Clinical Center patients — people with rare and complex diseases who are participating in NIH medical treatment and research programs.
But there’s more to blood donation than simply having your blood taken. There are certain rules and requirements you need to know about — they aren’t complicated but are necessary to make blood donations as safe as possible for both the donor and those who end up receiving the donated blood.
For example, if you are considering becoming a blood donor, you need to know how old you have to be to donate blood, how often you can donate blood, and other facts. And you’ll probably need the answer to this question: “Where do I donate blood near me?”
How long does it take to donate blood?
If you have a busy schedule, you might hesitate to become a blood donor because you worry about how long it might take to donate blood. The good news is, it involves little more time than you probably spend at lunch.
The actual donation of a pint of whole blood takes only eight to 10 minutes, according to the American Red Cross. And the entire process, from getting ready to finishing, takes only about an hour and a half.
Another type of blood donation, called apheresis, involves collecting platelets and other specific blood components (red cells or plasma) from a donor. The process uses a machine called a cell separator. It draws blood from the donor and the platelets, or another blood component, are collected by the cell separator and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor. Each apheresis donation procedure takes a bit longer than whole blood donation — about one and a half to two hours.
However, exactly how long it takes to donate blood depends on whether you are donating at a blood drive and attendance is heavy and how long it takes to go over your health history.
Your health history and blood donation
You need to be healthy to be a blood donor, so you’ll go through a screening process and be asked standard questions about your health history before the donation can begin. You’ll also be asked about places you’ve visited outside the U.S., where you may have been exposed to diseases such as malaria.
You cannot have any diseases that could be transmitted by blood you donate, the CDC points out. You are likely to be accepted as a donor if you have certain non-contagious conditions that are under control, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Blood donation center staff will make sure your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin level in a sample of blood (which checks for anemia) are all normal. And they’ll check to see if you weigh a minimum of 110 lbs. — the weight required for blood donors.
If you are concerned about how long it takes to donate blood, be prepared for getting the screening process rolling as quickly as possible by having two forms of ID handy. They’ll be needed for signing in at the donation center.
How old do you have to be to donate blood?
Most people who meet certain health requirements can donate blood, but donors must be at least 17 years old. In some states, the rules on how old you have to be to donate blood are a little different, and teens who are 16 can donate blood if their parents agree and sign a consent form.
If a 16-year-old has parental consent, the young donor is required to bring the signed form to his or her blood donation appointment each time blood is donated. The Red Cross provides information on states that allow blood donations at 16; downloadable parental consent donation are also available for each state at the Red Cross website.
How often can you donate blood?
Once you donate blood, you may find it feels great to know you are helping to save lives — and you may wonder how often you can donate blood again.
You’ll need to wait at least eight weeks (56 days) between donations of whole blood and 16 weeks (112 days) for Power Red donations (apheresis blood donation of red cells), according to the American Red Cross. Platelet apheresis donors may give every seven days, up to 24 times per year.
Regulations are different if you are donating blood for yourself (an autologous donation) in preparation for surgery — you’ll need to discuss that with your doctor.
How to donate blood near me
It’s easy to find out where donation centers are located near where you live and when and where blood drives are occurring at churches, health centers, and other locations in your community.
- Visit the American Red Cross web site and enter your zip code in the “find a blood drive” box.
- You can also call the Red Cross at 1-866-236-3276 and ask how to donate blood near you.
- If you live in the Bethesda, Md., area and would like to donate blood to the NIH Blood Bank, call (301) 496-1048 to schedule a donation.
June 25, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN