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.

Do you collect whole blood?

The UNC Blood Donation Center only specializes in collecting Platelets and sometimes plasma. For whole blood donations please contact: Rex Blood Services or the American Red Cross.

Why should I become a platelet donor?

There is no substitute for platelets; volunteer donors like yourself are the only source. Your donation may save the life of a cancer patient, premature baby, burn victim, trauma patient, surgery patient, or many others.

Are platelet donors paid?

No. All platelets collected for transfusion in the U.S. are given by volunteer donors.

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.

How are platelets collected?

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, so it is critical to have a continuous stream of donors each week.

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.

What are the minimum requirements to become a platelet donor?

You MUST be:
  • At least 16 years of age
  • Weigh 110 pounds (50 kg)
  • In good health (no sore throat, cough, fever, etc. within 72 hours prior to your donation)

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

What are some of the perks of donating at the UNC Blood Donation Center?

  • All donations received are used for patients at UNC Hospitals
  • We have been established for 20 years.
  • Experienced and delightful staff.
  • Over 1000 5-star Genbook Reviews
  • If you bring a friend to donate with you, you will receive FREE movie tickets.
  • If you bring 3 friends, you will get a FREE pizza party!
  • Hundreds of movies to pick from.
  • FREE snacks and drinks, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, juices, and soda.

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.

What if I’m taking aspirin or other medications prescribed by my doctor?

Apheresis platelet donors must NOT take aspirin or aspirin products 48 hours before donation. Many other medications are acceptable. 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 if I have anemia?

You cannot donate platelets 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.

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

How often can I donate Platelets?

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

If you have donated whole blood recently, you will need to wait two weeks in order to donate platelets.

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

Your body to replenishes the fluid lost from a blood donation within 24 hours.

Is there anything I should do before I donate?

Be sure to eat well at your regular mealtimes and drink plenty of fluids.

Make sure to wear comfortable clothing with sleeves that can easily be rolled above the elbow.

How will I feel after I donate?

Most people feel great after giving platelets. Giving platelets is less taxing on the body than whole blood donation because the apheresis process returns your blood (minus the platelets) back to you.

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.

How do I 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.

Want to do more than just donate?

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!

Enroll in UNC Chapel Hill's BIOL294H APPLES Class - This class gives you an understanding of the UNC Blood Donation Center, Platelets and their many uses, Donor Recruiting, and Service Marketing.

Become a UNC Carolina Platelet Partner - The Carolina Platelet Partners mission is to spread the word about platelet donation on UNC Chapel Hill's campus.

Become an Advocate - Many people are not aware of what platelets are, who they help, and why they are needed. You can be an advocate just by educating people and spreading the word about the need for platelet donors.

Reviewed by christopher parker on August 31, 2017