What happens when you donate plasma?
Plasma donation is a safe and comfortable experience.
The following advice will take you through what to expect when giving a blood sample or donating plasma.
When you volunteer as a plasma donor you may be asked to come and give a simple blood sample before making your first full plasma donation. We will test this sample for antibodies and invite people with high antibody levels to give a full donation.
Giving a blood sample
We are asking some of our volunteers to come in and give a blood sample for testing.
Giving a blood sample involves having your iron levels tested, checking your veins are suitable and answering some health check questions before having a needle inserted in your arm to fill a small test tube with blood. This all takes about 20 minutes.
We will test this sample for antibodies and let you know the results within 7 days. If your antibody results are high enough to be used for patient treatments, we will invite you back to donate plasma.
Taking blood samples means we can check a large number of people more quickly and find out if your antibodies are high enough without taking a full donation.
We are also inviting some volunteers to provide their blood sample using an at-home test kit sent by post or via an appointment at a small number of local health clinics or pharmacies. Volunteers then only need to visit one of our donor centres if their antibody results are high enough.
This is a short-term pilot study and we are working with Medichecks, Superdrug, Alcura/Boots, HomedIQ and Lloyds Pharmacy to provide test kits and local appointments. Depending on the pilot study findings, we may be able to offer these services to more volunteers in future.
If you are asked to give plasma, you will donate using specialist equipment (a plasmapheresis machine) which circulates your blood back to you after removing the plasma.
You will need to answer some health check questions and have an iron level test. We will then explain the plasmapheresis system and insert a needle in your arm to start taking plasma.
Our donor carers will monitor and look after you during your donation and there are specialist nurses at each session.
You will donate two units (around 560ml) of plasma and this takes around 45 minutes.
Preparing for your visit
Before you come to give your blood sample or plasma donation, you should eat as normal (avoid fatty foods) and have plenty of drinks to stay hydrated.
The donation part takes around 45 minutes so you might want to bring a book or some music to keep you entertained. Most donor centres have free WiFi and TV.
You will need to wear a fabric face covering when you donate so make sure you have one before travelling. It doesn’t have to be a surgical mask but should cover your mouth and nose.
You’ll be welcomed by experienced staff who will take you through the process.
When you arrive, we will ask you some health questions. You need to be fit and well on the day. If you have a cough, a cold or feel unwell you will not be able to give a blood sample or donate. If you are unwell, please cancel your appointment by calling 0300 123 23 23.
After donating plasma
Your body usually replaces the plasma you’ve donated in 24-48 hours and you can get on with your normal day after donating.
To help you stay well you should:
- eat and drink – we will give you drinks and snacks before you leave
- keep the pressure dressing on your arm for about 30 minutes, and the plaster on for 6 hours
- avoid using your donation arm to carry anything very heavy for the rest of the day
- avoid having a hot bath after you have given plasma
- avoid heavy exercise
Donating plasma is such a small act in the grand scheme of things and the impact it could have on someone’s life
Rebecca Mascarenhas, 32, from Kingston, south-west London, fell ill after caring for her husband while he was suffering with COVID-19