You have Blood Donation questions.
We have answers.

In order to better serve you, we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions. This list is meant to help you, the donor. If you cannot find an answer to a specific question, please contact:

Rob Harper
Vice President of Quality Assurance
(941) 954-1600 ext. 554 

Donating Blood

According to the 2005 Nationwide Blood Collection and Utilization Survey Report, about 14 million units of whole blood are donated each year. America’s Blood Centers estimates that more than 7.5 million units of whole blood were collected in 2008.

To be eligible to donate blood, a person must be in good health and generally must be at least 16 years of age (although some states permit younger people, with parental consent, to donate). Minimum weight requirements may vary among facilities, but generally, donors must weigh at least 110 pounds. Most blood banks have no upper age limit. All donors must pass the physical and health history examinations given prior to donation. Volunteer donors provide nearly all blood used for transfusion in the United States. The donor’s body replenishes the fluid lost from donation in 24 hours. It may take up to two months to replace the lost red blood cells. Whole blood can be donated once every eight weeks (56 days). Two units of red blood cells can be donated at one time, using a process known as red cell apheresis. This type of donation can be made every 16 weeks.

In order to make the donation experience pleasant you should maintain a healthy diet and the appropriate fluid intake. Also, note the name and dosage of any medications you are taking. Usually, medication does not keep you from donating, but the reason for taking the medication might.

Donating is safe and simple. The entire process takes about 30 to 45 minutes. The actual donation process works like this:

  • You will be asked to register by either filling out a form or showing your donor card.
  • You will be asked to answer some questions and read some information.
  • You will be taken in a confidential room where you will receive a mini health-exam and asked some more questions.
  • You will proceed to donor bed where your arm will be cleaned with an antiseptic.
  • Your blood will be drawn (the length of time depend on what procedure you choose).
  • Following you donation you will receive refreshments.

There are many places where blood donations can be made. Bloodmobiles (mobile blood drives on specially constructed buses) travel to high schools, colleges, churches, and community organizations. People can also donate at community blood centers and hospital-based donor centers. Many people donate at blood drives at their places of work.

  • Anyone with a positive test for HIV (AIDS virus).
  • Anyone who has ever taken antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV.
  • Men who have had sexual contact with other men in the last 3 months.
  • Anyone who has ever received clotting factor concentrates.
  • Anyone who has had Babesiosis or Chagas disease.
  • Anyone who has taken Tegison for Psoriasis.
  • Anyone who has had a tattoo in the last four weeks.
  • Anyone who spent three months or more in the United Kingdom from 1980 through 1996.
  • Anyone who has spent five years in France or Ireland from 1980 through 2001.

While a given individual may be unable to donate, he or she may be able to recruit a suitable donor. Blood banks are always in need of volunteers to assist at blood drives or to organize mobile blood drives. In addition, monetary donations are always welcome to help ensure that blood banks can continue to provide safe blood to those in need.

The word apheresis is derived from the Greek work “Aphaerisis” meaning “to take away”. Apheresis, an increasingly common procedure, is the process of removing a specific component of the blood, such as platelets, and returning the remaining components, such as red blood cells and plasma, to the donor. This process allows more of one particular part of the blood to be collected than could be separated from a unit of whole blood. Apheresis is also performed to collect red blood cells, plasma (liquid part of the blood), and granulocytes (white blood cells). The apheresis donation procedure takes longer than that for whole blood donation. A whole blood donation takes about 10–15 minutes to collect the blood, while an apheresis donation may take about one to two hours.

Receiving Blood

The need for blood is great—on any given day, an average of 40,000 units of donated blood are used each day in the U.S. and Canada. Blood transfusions often are needed for trauma victims — due to accidents and burns — heart surgery, organ transplants, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or other diseases, such as sickle cell disease and Thalassemia. NBDRC reports that in 2001, nearly 29 million units of blood components were transfused. And with an aging population and advances in medical treatments and procedures requiring blood transfusions, the demand for blood continues to increase.

When you come to donate a unit of blood, that unit is not kept in its whole blood form. The unit is centrifuged at high speeds to separate the constituent components from each other. Since red blood cells are the heaviest, they sink to the bottom of the bag. The platelet rich plasma and cryoprecipitate factors settle near the middle of the bag. Each of these components are separated into different bags for treatment as follows:

  • Red Blood Cells: Used to increase red cell mass after surgery, to treat patients with anemia. Red cells are stored under refrigeration for up to 42 days, or they may be frozen for up to 10 years.
  • Fresh Frozen Plasma: Used to treat clotting disorders, expand blood volume, to treat shock due to plasma loss in burns. FFP is frozen shortly after collection and is stored up to one year.
  • Platelets: Used to treat bleeding due to platelet shortage or to treat platelet function abnormalities. Platelets are stored at room temperature with constant agitation for up to 5 days.
  • Cryoprecipitate: Used to treat Hemophilia A, Von Willebrand’s disease, and other clotting factor deficiencies. Cryo is made from FFP and may be stored frozen up to one year.
  • White Blood Cells: Used to treat patients who cannot produce enough white cells, due to disease or cancer treatment or are unresponsive to antibiotic therapy. They must be transfused within 24 hours after collection.
  • Immune Globulin: Given to help fight infectious diseases such as hepatitis.
  • Albumin: Used to treat people in shock, and also used in plasma exchanges for seriously ill patients.

One unit of whole blood can help save as many three lives.

It is difficult to put an exact figure on each type of procedure or illness, but listed below are general estimates for the top blood using events:

  • Hip Replacement Surgery – 3 to 4 Units
  • Leukemia Treatment – 6 to 8 Units
  • Stab Wound Treatment – 6 to 12 Units
  • Heart Surgery – 6 to 12 Units
  • Gastro-Intestinal Bleeding – 5 to 50 Units
  • Aortic/Abdominal Aneurysm – 5 to 50 Units
  • Traumatic Organ Damage – 10 to 100 Units
  • Liver Transplant – 30 to 150 Units

Blood Safety

Yes. Sterile procedures and disposable equipment are used. Each donor’s blood is collected through a new sterile needle, which is discarded after use. No one has contracted any infectious diseases from donating blood.

After blood has been drawn, it is tested for ABO group (blood type) and Rh type (positive or negative), as well as for any unexpected red blood cell antibodies that may cause problems in a recipient. Screening tests also are performed for evidence of donor infection with hepatitis B and C viruses, human immunodeficiency viruses HIV-1 and HIV-2, human T-lymphotropic viruses HTLV-I and HTLV-II, syphilis and West Nile Virus (WNV).

The specific tests currently performed are listed below:

  • Hepatitis B surface antigen HBsAg
  • Hepatitis B core antibody anti-HBc
  • Hepatitis C virus antibody anti-HCV
  • HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibody anti-HIV-1 and anti-HIV-2
  • HTLV-I and HTLV-II antibody anti-HTLV-I and anti-HTLV-II
  • Serologic test for syphilis
  • Nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT) for HIV-1 and HCV
  • NAT for WNV

The nucleic acid test (NAT) detects the presence of HIV, HCV (Hepatitis C) and WNV (West Nile Virus) in blood using a semi-automated system. It further ensures the safety of blood by permitting earlier detection of HIV, HCV and WNV infections in donors. The NAT system is capable of detecting a few more infectious donors than other tests because it detects viral genes rather than antibodies or antigens. Detections of viral genes permits detection earlier in the infection since the appearance of antibodies requires time for the donor to develop an immune response, and detection of antigens requires time for a higher level of virus to appear in the bloodstream.

General Information About Blood

  • Plasma is a mixture of water, sugar, fat, protein, and potassium and calcium salts. It also contains many chemicals that help form the blood clots necessary to stop bleeding. More than 92% of plasma is water. Our blood consists of 55% plasma.
  • Red blood cells contain a special protein called hemoglobin, which carries the oxygen we inhale with our lungs to all of the parts of our bodies. It then returns carbon dioxide from our body to our lungs so we can exhale it. Hemoglobin is also responsible for making red blood cells red. We have so many red blood cells that our blood itself appears red, even though it contains more than red blood cells.
  • White blood cells are clear round cells that are bigger than red blood cells. White blood cells produce proteins called antibodies that help our bodies fight infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and foreign proteins.
  • Platelets aren’t really cells at all; they are just fragments of cells. When we are injured, platelets gather at the site of the injury and stick to the edges of the wound. They release chemicals that help start the process of blood clotting so that bleeding will stop.

About 8 percent of a person’s weight is blood. The amount of blood varies according to height and weight, but an average man has about 12 pints of blood, and the average woman has about 9 pints.

There are two systems that make up blood type, ABO and Rh. All people belong to one of four inherited blood groups: A, B, AB or O. The letters A and B refer to the kind of antigens that are found on an individual’s red blood cells. An antigen is a protein or carbohydrate on the red cell that triggers an immune response, such as the formation of antibodies. There are four blood types in the ABO system:

  • Group A: Blood has A antigen on red cells, and anti-B antibody in the plasma
  • Group B: Blood has B antigen on the red cells, and anti-A antibody in the plasma
  • Group AB: Blood has both A and B antigens on red cells but neither anti-A antibody nor anti-B antibody in the plasma. Since they lack anti-A and anti-B antigens, persons with AB blood are called universal donors for plasma.
  • Group O: Blood has neither A or B antigens on red cells, but both anti-A and anti-B antibodies are in the plasma. Since their red blood cells lack A and B antigens, persons with Group O are called universal donors for red blood cell units.

People also have an inherited antigen on their red blood cells known as Rh or D antigen. When the D antigen is present, a person’s blood is designated Rh positive. When D antigen is missing, the blood type is designated Rh negative. In general, Rh negative is given to Rh negative patients and Rh positive blood to Rh positive patients.

O positive – 37.4% of population. 1 person in 3<br>
A positive – 35.7% of population. 1 person in 3<br>
B positive – 8.5% of population. 1 person in 12<br>
O negative – 6.6% of population. 1 person in 15<br>
A negative – 6.3% of population. 1 person in 16<br>
AB positive – 3.4% of population. 1 person in 29<br>
B negative – 1.5% of population. 1 person in 67<br>
AB negative – 0.6% of population. 1 person in 167

The discovery of many additional blood group factors or antigens outside the ABO/Rh systems has led to the identification of rare blood types. The term “rare blood” implies that only a very small percentage of the population share the same combination of blood group antigens. Racial origin influences the frequency of these blood types.

While donated blood is free, there are significant costs associated with collecting, testing, preparing components, labeling, storing and shipping blood; recruiting and educating donors; and quality assurance. As a result, processing fees are charged to recover costs. Processing fees for individual blood components vary considerably. Processing fees for one specific component also may vary in different geographic regions. Hospitals charge for any additional testing that may be required, such as the crossmatch, as well as for the administration of the blood.

The blood supply level fluctuates throughout the year. During holidays and in the summer, levels tend to fall because donations decline, but demand remains stable or even increases. In addition, policies recommended by the Food and Drug Administration can eliminate, or defer, donors who may be at risk for variant Cruetzfeldt-Jacob disease (vCJD), the human variety of the disease that is commonly known as “mad-cow” disease. Also, FDA can recommend that a potential donor who may be at risk for a transfusion-transmissible disease such as malaria be deferred. These policies reduce the number of people who are eligible to donate.


In general, healthy adults over the age of 16 with no history of blood-borne illness or pathogens are eligible to donate blood. Donors between 16 and 18 years of age are eligible to donate, with a signed parental consent form.

Donors must weigh at least 110 lbs. and be in good health — that means you feel well and can perform normal activities. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes and you want to donate blood, it’s important that you are being treated and the condition is under control. If you’re not feeling well on the day of your donation, please contact us to reschedule.

Additional eligibility criteria apply, including certain medications, medical conditions, travel to certain countries, and personal history. 

We are now able to accept most previously deferred military personnel, and their families, who were prohibited from donating because of time spent in Europe. There are still policies in place pertaining to the U.K., France, and Ireland. Please contact Suncoast Blood Centers for more details.

If you have recently received a tattoo or piercing the deferral period has been decreased from 1 year to 3 months, unless applied by a state-regulated entity with sterile needle and non-reused ink.

Travelers who have visited an area in which malaria is considered endemic are deferred for only 3 months instead of 12 months, after departure from the area, if they have been free from symptoms suggestive of malaria.

Yes, as long as a donor is feeling healthy and well and has been asymptomatic for 14 days they are eligible to donate.