Blood Donation FAQs

It's normal to have questions related to blood donations.

If your question is not listed below or if you would like additional information, contact the UNC Health Care Blood Donation Center at 984-974-8290.

Why should I become a blood donor?

There is no substitute for blood and people are the only source. Blood is something you can spare, but there isn’t enough to go around - which is why the UNC Health Care Blood Donation Center needs your donation. Your donation may save the life of a patient in need.

Are blood donors paid?

No. All blood collected for transfusion in the U.S. is given by volunteer blood donors.

What are the minimum requirements to become a blood donor?

To donate blood you must be at least 16 years of age, in good health and weigh at least 110 pounds.

There are certain medical conditions and medications that can prohibit you from making a blood donation. If you have questions or concerns about whether you can give blood, call the UNC Health Care Blood Donation Center at 984-974-8290.

How often can I donate blood?

Platelets can be donated once every 48 hours up to 24 times a year.

How long does it take to replenish my blood after a donation?

It takes 24 hours for your body to replenish the fluid lost from a blood donation.

Is there anything I should do before I donate?

Before making your blood donation, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and eat well (during regular mealtimes).

When you come in to make your donation, make sure to wear comfortable clothing with sleeves that can easily be rolled above the elbow.

Will it hurt?

No. You may feel a slight sting in the beginning, but this should only last a few seconds. There should be no discomfort during the donation process.

How will I feel after I donate?

Most people feel great after giving blood. However, if you feel any abnormal symptoms be sure to alert a staff member.

You should avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise for the 24 hours following your blood donation. Otherwise, as long as you are feeling well, you can resume full activity.

What types of tests are performed on donated blood?

After your blood is drawn, it is tested for the ABO group (blood type) and RH type (positive or negative). It is also tested for any unexpected red blood cell antibodies that may cause problems for the recipient.

The following screening tests are performed on donated blood:

  • 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)
  • West Nile Virus
  • Chagas’ Disease

Can I donate blood if I have anemia?

You cannot donate blood if you have anemia (or low hemoglobin levels). However, anemia can often be a temporary condition.

Your hemoglobin will be tested before you donate to make sure it is at an acceptable level.

Can I donate blood if I have high blood pressure?

Yes, you can still donate blood as long as your blood pressure is under control and within the limits set in the donation guidelines.

Can I donate blood if I’m taking aspirin or other medications prescribed by my doctor?

If you are donating platelets, you must NOT take aspirin or aspirin products within 48 hours of your donation.

There are other medications that may affect your ability to donate. If you have questions about medications you are currently taking or would like to verify acceptable medications, call the UNC Health Care Blood Donation Center at 984-974-8290 prior to your donation.

What are platelets?

Platelets are small, disc-shaped cells that circulate in the blood after being made in the bone marrow. They are vital to many surgical procedures as they help to slow or stop bleeding. Patients undergoing certain cancer treatments (such as Leukemia) may also need platelet transfusions because their bodies may not be able to produce platelets due to weakened bone marrow.

Platelets are collected during a process called apheresis. First, blood is drawn from the donor’s arm and passed through an apheresis machine. This machine separates the platelets from the rest of the blood. The platelets are then collected, and the remaining blood is returned to the donor.

How long do platelets last?

Five days.

How can I get more involved?

Want to do more than just donate?

Host a pizza party - Bring a group of 3-4 donors into the UNC Health Care Blood Donation Center, and we will order free pizza and give away a free movie ticket to each donor.

Organize a platelet drive - Bring your entire organization, group or business to make a platelet donation. The Blood Donation Center is happy to reserve an entire day to help make donating an easy process. Just contact us via email or by phone at 984-974-8290 to set up your platelet drive.

Join the volunteer committee - Become an ambassador for the UNC Health Care Blood Donation Center by volunteering with the Recruitment Committee. You can help raise awareness for platelet donation throughout the community. Interested? Send us an email now!