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What happens when you donate plasma?

Plasma donation is a safe and comfortable experience. Most of our donors spend the 45 minutes happily reading or browsing their phones.

The following advice will take you through what to expect when donating plasma.

As part of this programme, you are likely to donate only plasma rather than give whole blood. This means you can give plasma every two weeks, instead of waiting 12-16 weeks between whole blood donations.

As part of the convalescent plasma trial, we may ask you to donate several times.

Preparing to donate plasma

Before your appointment you can prepare by eating as normal (avoid fatty foods) and having 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 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 need to be fit and well on the day of your donation. If you have a cough, a cold or feel unwell you will not be able to donate. If you are unwell, please cancel your appointment by calling 0300 123 23 23.

On the day

A donor talks to a donor carer as he gives plasmaOur COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors will be invited to sessions at some of our main blood donation centres. We are collecting plasma no sooner than 28 days after recovery. This means 28 days since discharge from hospital or 35 days since your symptoms started.

You’ll be welcomed by experienced staff who will take you through the process.

Donating plasma is similar to giving blood or platelets. We will ask you to read some information and complete a health check questionnaire to make sure you are able to donate.

At your appointment we will:

  • explain the donation process and discuss any risks
  • complete consent paperwork and answer any questions you may have
  • take your donation (usually a 45-minute process)
  • provide drinks and snacks and recovery time

It’s wonderful to come in and easy to donate

Dr Zahid Safraz holds a small dressing on his arm after donating plasma

Dr Zahid Safraz, 29, a doctor at Sandwell Hospital, donated after recovering from COVID-19

Read stories from plasma donors

Donating plasma (plasmapheresis)

Our donor centres have specialist equipment for safely taking plasma in a process called plasmapheresis. Like platelet donation, your blood is circulated back to you after having the plasma removed.

You will donate around 560ml of plasma (two units).

Our donor carers will monitor and look after you during your donation and there are specialist nurses at each session.

A donor carer will put a cuff around your arm, clean your skin and insert a needle into your arm.

Your blood goes into a machine that separates the plasma and the rest of your blood is returned to your body. This takes about 45 minutes, during which time you can sit back and relax.

All materials are disposable and are only used once. 

When the donation is over, the needle will be removed and a dressing applied to your arm.

More about donating plasma

Donating plasma is such a small act in the grand scheme of things and the impact it could have on someone’s life

Rebecca donates plasma

Rebecca Mascarenhas, 32, from Kingston, south-west London, fell ill after caring for her husband while he was suffering with COVID-19

Read stories from plasma donors

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

More about staying well after you donate

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