If you’re wondering what disqualifies you from donating plasma, these are some drugs and health conditions that might prevent you from donating.
What Disqualifies You From Donating Plasma?
Plasma donation lets you make an easy buck and can help people with certain medical issues. However, it’s not something you can do every day, and some factors can prevent you from donating.
When investigating what disqualifies you from donating plasma, you’ll need to pay attention to the prescription drugs you take, any recreational drugs, your lifestyle and sexual behaviors, as well as your general health.
It’s important to understand the crucial role plasma donation can play in the recovery of some patients, but also how vital it is that your plasma is healthy.
When You Donate Plasma, What Do They Test For?
Before the medical community accepts bodily fluids from you, they need to ensure they’re safe. We’ve learned over many years of medical advancements that blood can carry pathogens from one patient to another.
Your blood and plasma get tested for infectious elements, but they’ll also check your blood to ensure that taking plasma from you won’t cause any issues.
Most plasma donation centers test for:
- Communicable diseases such as HIV or hepatitis
- Blood protein levels
- Hematocrit, which is a measure of your red blood cells in relation to the rest of your blood
You’ll also have your weight, age, temperature, pulse, and blood pressure recorded. Some of these readings can disqualify you from donating.
What Tests Are Done on Plasma?
Few medical centers can test every potential donor for individual diseases, so they perform overarching tests that can clear a person for donation or alert them to a possible medical issue.
- Serological testing detects antibodies. Since antibodies appear as part of your body’s immune system response, their presence indicates at least exposure, if not infection.
- Nucleic Acid Testing tests specifically for HIV and hepatitis B and C. The presence of any will disqualify a person for donation.
- Blood from a finger stick before any donation goes into a centrifuge to evaluate protein and hematocrit levels.
Why Plasma Donation Centers Are So Strict
In the 20th century, nearly half of the American hemophiliacs contracted HIV through plasma-related treatments. Class-action lawsuits increased federal oversight, and an overall collapse of the public perception of plasma donation and medication followed.
That last paragraph alone should cover the strict nature of screening potential donors, but HIV isn’t the only thing that can taint plasma. Hepatitis infection, specifically the B and C varieties, can pass from donor to patient with ease.
The questionnaires, tests, and physical examinations involved in plasma donation occur so industry professionals can ensure donors and recipients of plasma remain healthy and are exposed to minimal risk.
What Causes You To Not Be Able to Donate Plasma?
With strict testing, it follows that donors must meet specific criteria and be free of sickness or disease. Though most disqualifying factors would make you unlikely to consider donating (if you’re suffering from malaria, for instance, you probably won’t feel well enough to donate anything), not all are obvious. They include:
- Getting a tattoo or body piercing in recent months (how many months varies from facility to facility)
- Having a fever
- Having been infected with any hepatitis virus or tuberculosis at any time in your life
- Having chicken pox in the last month
- High blood pressure
- Low iron levels
- Receiving the MMR vaccine in the past 72 hours
- Taking heart medication
- Weighing less than 110 pounds
What Medications Disqualify You From Plasma Donation?
Medications in your system will enter that of any recipients of your plasma. Because we know that some drugs affect the blood directly, anti-clotting factors and blood thinners can’t be present in plasma.
Other drugs are known to cause birth defects. If you’re on any of those, you’ll also be barred from donating.
Some disqualifying drugs include:
- Cow insulin*
- Growth hormone derived from the human pituitary gland*
* No longer available in the US, but past use prevents donation for life
Other Questions About Plasma Donation Eligibility
Part of the donation process involves a questionnaire about your current health, lifestyle, and drug (prescription or otherwise) use. The questions focus on conditions that could make you more likely than not to have some disqualifying factor.
Some of the questions include:
- Are you currently on any antibiotics?
- Are you pregnant now?
- Do you have any type of cancer?
- Do you have recent tattoos (or touch-up work) or body piercings?
- Have you had sex for money, paid for sex, or had sexual contact with anyone with HIV?
- Have you received a positive HIV test?
- Have you recently had surgery?
- In the past year, have you had a blood transfusion?
Some facilities may ask additional questions involving deeper dives into sexual history or about travel to locations where certain diseases are more common.
Can Diabetics Donate Plasma?
Provided your diabetes has not compromised or otherwise caused problems for your liver or kidneys, both type I and type II diabetics can donate plasma. Insulin and other diabetic treatment meds do not disqualify you as a donor.
Can I Give Blood if I Smoke?
This answer depends on the facility. Most donation sites discourage smoking within an hour of donating (before and after), but this is not to ensure the blood is nicotine-free, but rather to prevent lightheadedness during or after the donation.
However, some donation sites bar the use of tobacco. For instance, the Transplant Center at the University of California, Davis requires that donors be tobacco-free for three months before donation.
Can You Donate Plasma if You Have Drugs In Your System?
If the drugs got into your system via intravenous use that was not prescribed by a doctor, you cannot donate. But this is due to the needles involved, and not necessarily the drugs in question.
As cannabis use becomes more and more acceptable and legal around the country, fewer medical facilities consider its use a barring factor to donation. However, any reputable medical enterprise will discourage anyone from donating if they are impaired in any way— by drugs or alcohol.
How to Properly Prepare for a Plasma Donation
Since plasma donation, on some level, depends on your protein levels, your diet before donation should include protein- and iron-rich foods. Avoid fatty foods in the hours before donation, and stay well-hydrated (before and after donating).
Frequently Asked Questions
With so many variables, many questions may remain even after digesting all the above material. We answer some frequently asked questions below.
Why Do They Check Your Elbows When Donating Plasma?
An obvious reason donation center technicians check your elbows is to look for signs of intravenous drug use. However, they also evaluate potential sites for the needle used in the donation. If you have a bruise or other injury near the site, they may require you to use your other arm or defer your donation until it’s healed.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Donating Plasma?
Since the process can lower immunoglobulin levels in your blood, you may experience reduced antibody responses in your immune system, meaning you might get sick more easily. There is also the issue of calcium deficiency, which may occur as a result of citrate.
Citrate prevents clotting, so it’s used in plasma donation, but it also hinders the function of calcium in your body. Calcium deficiency can compromise bone strength and can conceivably cause rickets.
Plasma donation plays a vital role in the health of some patients, and the donor can come away from the process feeling good about doing a good thing and with some extra cash. But it’s not for everyone. There may be long-term effects we don’t know about yet, and you may not qualify.
Knowing what disqualifies you from donating plasma— use of certain drugs, infection with any number of viruses or other illnesses, or engagement in risky sexual behaviors— helps keep recipients safe and can improve your health by addressing these factors.
So what do you think about this blog post about what disqualifies you from donating plasma? Have you or someone you know been in that situation? What was that like and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.