Donating Blood to the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is often in need of blood donations. Individuals interested in supporting the organization’s philanthropic mission can streamline the process by visiting www.redcrossblood.org and using the RapidPass tool to answer relevant health history questions before arriving at the location of a local blood drive. First, individuals should ensure that they meet the eligibility requirements for the donation.

“Whole blood” is the standard donation made at American Red Cross blood drives. Whole blood donations include red and white blood cells and platelets suspended in plasma. Whole blood is considered the most flexible donation since it can be transfused to a single patient or broken into specific components and delivered to multiple patients with different needs.

To donate whole blood, individuals must weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, and in most states, be at least 16 years of age. People can donate whole blood only once every 56 days and should abstain from donating if they do not feel well or are suffering from any health issues at the time of the donation.

Further, individuals interested in regularly donating blood should maintain healthy levels of iron. A well-balanced diet with plenty of iron and vitamin C is paramount to maintain adequate iron levels. Donors can supplement a healthy diet with multivitamins.

“Power red” donations differ from standard whole blood donations in that donors can safely contribute two units of red blood cells in a single session. This is achieved by using a special machine that takes red blood cells but not plasma or platelets. For power red donations, individuals are limited to three donations per year or once every 112 days. For males, donors must be at least 17 years old and a minimum of 5 feet one inch 1 tall, and 130 pounds. Female donors should be at least 19 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, and 150 pounds.

Platelet donations are vital to American Red Cross operations. Platelets are critical to human health because they form clots and stop bleeding. In the United States, someone needs a platelet donation every 15 seconds.

For platelet donations, most states maintain a minimum age requirement of 17 years old and a weight requirement of 110 pounds. People can make platelets donations more often than whole blood or power red donations — about every seven days. However, donors should limit donations to 24 times per year.

Finally, donors can give AB elite plasma about once per month or 13 times per year. Donors can make these donations more often because they donate only plasma while retaining red cells and platelets. Because of the advanced technology used in this process, plasma donations take only a few minutes longer than standard blood donations.

Beyond these specific eligibility requirements, some individuals cannot donate blood to the American Red Cross for reasons that include certain medications, a low iron count, and any illness within 24 hours of donation time.

For more information about donating blood to the American Red Cross or coordinating a local blood drive, visit the organization’s website.

Robert S. Castellini — Active in Philanthropy