Donating Plasma – Are You Selling Yourself Short?

plasma donation

Written by Caitlin Schille

The plasma donation business has ballooned into an enormous industry, and the demand allows plasma donors to be paid for their donation. People looking to make a quick buck can spend an hour or two donating their plasma for payouts of $40 or more per visit. Some question whether this is an acceptable medical practice or one that should be regulated more tightly.

What is plasma, and why are companies willing to pay you for it?

Plasma is the fluid component of blood, and it is very important. Plasma is critical to forming blood clots to prevent excessive bleeding, and it is vital in fighting diseases. When donating plasma, a sample of blood will be taken, and then the plasma is separated from the other blood cells. The other blood cells are then returned to your body. The donated plasma is used for patients who suffer from bleeding disorders, immune deficiency disorders, and other injuries and conditions.

Plasma from US donors makes up about 70 percent of worldwide collections.

There is no doubt that plasma is critical for human life and that plasma donation is important. So what is the cost to the donor?

Some scathing anecdotal evidence lambasts plasma donation, portraying the experience as practically being akin to receiving services at an underground abortion clinic. Tales of untrained and uncertified staff, accusations of lying about medical history, lack of risk information, and other horror stories can easily scare readers away from plasma donation.

However, relying on anecdotal evidence instead of aggregated data is like listening to Jenny McCarthy’s rants on vaccines and autism instead of actual science and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It is safe to occasionally donate plasma. Dr. Tamera Straub, a pediatrician with decades of experience, asserts that it is safe to make a plasma donation, “as long as the place is reputable and licensed by the state.” A potential donor must pass a health screening and survey of his or her medical history. Vital signs are monitored throughout the visit to ensure the safety of the donor. Equipment is sterilized and safe to use. Measures are taken to ensure donor safety, such as allowing donors to give plasma no more than once or twice per week. The risks of a donation visit are relatively mild—bruising, nausea, and dizziness are some of the occasional side effects.

Potential Problems With Paying Plasma Donors

  • Impoverished individuals may lie to pass screening tests.
  • Current regulations allowing people in the US to donate twice a week is more than any other place in the world, but people do it for the money.
  • Impoverished individuals may continue to donate plasma for a long period of time, which can be harmful.

While it is quite safe to occasionally donate plasma, there are some risks associated with regularly donating plasma over a long period of time. A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that long-term plasma donation is heavily associated with lower levels of immunoglobulins, suppressor T cells, and natural killer cells. These cells are all critical components of the immune system. The NIH study found these results to be significant enough that further study was warranted into the long-term effects of plasma donation. Long-term donors sometimes complain of pain, rubbery legs, and tingling sensations.

As such, the current conclusion on the safety of plasma donation is that occasional, sporadic plasma donation is safe, as is plasma donation in and of itself. However, regular, long-term plasma donation poses enough of a hazard that it ought to be avoided.


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  1. Kirsten Reinford
    October 27, 2016

    This information would be more helpful if “long term” was defined. Is long term 6 months? 6 years? Presumably donating once a week is better than donating twice a week, but at what point does it cross over from safe to hazardous?

  2. Brad
    November 19, 2016

    I’ve been donating plasma for 4 years regularly, I have felt the affects of tiredness and a bunch of other symptoms of fatigue related . After one year of donating regularly, my body adjusted to that feeling and I was fine . 4 years later Im not sure if it’s plasma related but it seems after I donate, I feel as though I am more depressed and less capable of dealing with stress . I’m not sure if this is long term related or not but I’ve noticed it gets worse after donating plasma

  3. Maribel
    November 26, 2016

    It would be helpful if “long term” is defined.

    • February 13, 2018

      When donating plasma ona regular basis,vital nutrients are lost (robbed)from your body.Thus,you have to eat healthy,ie;greens,dairy and proteins.Limit sugars!

  4. Jane Doe
    December 7, 2016

    I’ve only donated twice and my donation side arm (from entry downward to my hand) & leg has the tingling & numbness… After only 2x… You should include that into your article, because advise this is a potential effect after a extended donation time, can be misleading.

    I’m done donating After 2x too many… Love my body too much for all of what I feel already…

  5. S lee
    April 11, 2017

    I have donated 4 times my daughter has been donated for about 4 months & so far so good for us. & we donate twice a week.

  6. Jane
    April 17, 2017

    Plasma is vital to human life however paid plasma donations are never used in another human – that is illegal. If you are paid for plasma it is used in testing drugs but only voluntary unpaid donations of whole blood, platelets and plasma is transfused into another person.

    • Amanda
      February 2, 2018

      That’s why they are not paying you for the plasma, but compensating for your time.
      That is how they skirt around that. They do not pay you for your plasma, they have you sign a paper saying you understand that you are voluntarily donating your plasma for no compensation.
      Accepting payment for your time there is also optional.

  7. April 18, 2017

    I’ve donated plasma for 2 + months now steady twice a week and I can tell you i just caugfht i do not know if i ahve other viruses such as hiv and aids or cancer…but reading this im leaning towards giving plasma as being why my shingles popped out being i am only 40 .. you can keep updated at

  8. TennGal58
    May 21, 2017

    One does not “catch” shingles.

    From Wikipedia: “Shingles is due to a reactivation of varicella zoster virus (VZV) within a person’s body. Chickenpox is due to an initial infection with VZV. Once chickenpox has resolved, the virus may remain inactive in nerve cells. When it reactivates it travels from the nerve body to the endings in the skin producing blisters. Risk factors for reactivation include old age, poor immune function, and having had chickenpox before 18 months of age. How the virus remains in the body or subsequently re-activates is not well understood. Exposure to the virus in the blisters can cause chickenpox in someone who has not had it before but will not trigger shingles.”

    According to the above article: “A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that long-term plasma donation is heavily associated with lower levels of immunoglobulins, suppressor T cells, and natural killer cells. These cells are all critical components of the immune system.”

    So, since poor immune function is a risk factor for both plasma donation and reactivation of the shingles virus (VZV), it’s reasonable to surmise that this is what happened in your case, regardless of your age.

    Donating plasma has absolutely nothing to do with whether you have HIV, AIDS, or cancer.

    • John
      December 27, 2017

      Shingles is a delayed reaction to having had chickenpox as a child. A person who has had chickenpox should get a shingles vaccination, and do it before the first outbreak of shingles, because after that, the vaccination will do no good.

  9. cassie sal
    May 29, 2017

    I’ve been donate off and on I was doing it for 4 months then stop for 6 months and know I’m bk doing It again for the last ,5 months and I just want to know the long term effects. My dad dnt like me doing this and is woried for my health I feel fine other then the fact that the last time I donated is I got poked twice on in each arm and know I one of my arm is all black and brown BC she moved the needle around to much and put it in too far and how the %$#@ I barley moved my are with out it hurting and know I’m like wanna quit again

  10. Tyler
    June 5, 2017

    I have been donating twice a week for 6 months and if anything I feel healthier! This is most likely due to the necessity and motivation of paying closer attention to eating right, exercising regularly and staying well-hydrated, all of which help me avoid being “deferred” and make for a quicker donation. Have not had so much as a cold in that period. Only downside is the puncture marks- one on each arm, but not a big deal.

  11. Tracy
    September 7, 2017

    I’m amazed that you can donate twice a week in the US. I am in Australia, we can only donate once every fortnight (2 weeks) and I personally prefer every 3 weeks. To give my body a chance to recover and I also find that the needle holes take longer to heal ( not sure if that is because of aging or just frequency of being jabbed)
    Nobody has looked into the long term effects of regular donations, you do loose some water and also calcium. We have very strict regulations monitoring the health of doners here and it is a volunteer system.

    • Blah
      September 19, 2017

      Its good that we can donate twice a week here in US. It helps out poor people like me. The needle hole heals in 3 days for me. I dont care about my health, I have depression and dont work so its extra money to eat and stuff. Ive been donating twice a week for 8 months.

  12. Ginger
    November 1, 2017

    I donate plasma at Ked Plasma. They only take people with RH negative blood and use it to create Rhogam, which is given to mothers when they give birth. I’ve donated once, sometimes twice/week for a few months now and I’m the thinnest I’ve been in 25 years (steadily losing weight since the start of donating). Also, I feel like I got run over by a train sometimes an entire day after donating. The exhaustion is terrible. There are definite side effects they don’t tell you about. The money is good but the effects on my health are making it so I am second guessing the twice/week donating. At age 45 this is becoming too hard on my body.

    • Eddie
      January 6, 2018

      I think that getting run over by a train would leave you feeling nothing at all. Parts and pieces. If you believe that donating is going to ruin your day and eventually your health, just stop donating. How is that even a question.

      Take care of your body first. Be informed. Why would anyone donate at a center that was questionable? Comparing this process to a back ally abortion is also ridiculous. I’ve been to two centers and both are very clean and professional, but expecting the chairs, for example, to be sterile? That isn’t going to happen.

      I have been donating twice a week for about three months and it really doesn’t bother me at all that day. But I think the temp job that I was working, lifting 26lb. boxes all day, DID make my limbs hurt, so I quit that.

  13. Kathy
    November 16, 2017

    I am a 65 year old female and have never donated before. Are there more risks as you get older? Thinking of going in for my first time tomorrow. I would like to do twice / week rotation. Any thoughts on this?

  14. Kaarina
    December 24, 2017

    I have recently tried to donate at my local plasma donation center. I have only donated twice. And both tries were unsuccessful for me. The first time I was only able to donate about 300 ml of plasma and the 2nd time I was able to donate about 500 ml. The amount that you are supposed to donate depends on your weight which for me meant that I was supposed to donate about 800 ml. Unfortunately, both times my body reacted badly. During the donation process I started to feel very weak, nauseous, light headed like I was about to pass out. The staff was very well trained in responding to the symptoms I was feeling and immediately stopped the donation process. I was given saline in order to get me back to normalish (normalish because the saline made my body shiver and my heart beat felt a little off). I would love to donate plasma but I am not sure that my body can handle the side effects.

  15. Jeremy
    January 8, 2018

    I think the thing to remember is everybody’s body reacts differently. Yes, there are people saying they are seeing very negative effects after one or two donations. Others are saying they have been doing it for years with no noticeable side effects.

    I’ve been donating twice a week for nearly a year now. I notice a little bit of extra fatigue for a couple of hours after donating, but otherwise I’m just as healthy feeling as I was prior to starting. As others have mentioned, if nothing else it helps me remember to stay properly hydrated so I’m probably healthier overall than I was before.

    I think the most important thing is to weigh the benefits and drawbacks for yourself. I enjoy doing it because I can lay there for an hour and read or catch up on my Netflix, and the plasma drawn is used to make life-saving drugs. The extra spending money isn’t bad either, but it isn’t that isn’t my primary motivator to keep going back. If you experience negative effects, talk to the staff or even your doctor to see if there is anything that can be done to mitigate them, or perhaps your body just won’t tolerate donation at all.

  16. Stephanie
    January 11, 2018

    I’ve been donating plasma regularly (2xs a week) for the past few months. I don’t have any big issues NORMALLY. But i get sick more often. I donated 2 days ago and broke with illness yesterday. Skin aches, high fever, neck pain, sore throat. It has never taken this long to recover and I’ve never felt so miserable in my life. Alsoooo when I stress out too much I get a cold sore. I actually got 2 cold sores after the stress of a new job and donating plasma twice a week, which also has never happened in my entire life. This article must be correct about long term donation weakening your immune system. I lost feeling in my hands a couple times after donation and it takes about 5-10 minutes for the feeling to come back. Also I have no strength or stamina after donation. I’ve been so weak that I almost collapsed. But eating healthy, eliminating stress, donating less often, and rest are all ways to decrease the chances of you having these effects.

  17. Michelle L Rattray
    January 22, 2018

    Has anyone noticed hair loss?

  18. Ken
    January 29, 2018

    I am 55 yrs old. In my twenties I donated once or twice a week for several years. I also donated whole blood regularly at work and at Red Cross blood drives. I was in the military and then worked for the state. Both are target markets for the Red Cross. I had NO SIDE EFFECTS or other symptoms. However, there is so much scar tissue in my elbow pits it is almost impossible for doctors to find a vein there. I am left with the back of my forearm or the back of my hand for IV’s. While it may or may not be safe to regularly donate plasma, I believe if you continually let the staff poke your elbow pits , there is a price to be paid in actual tissue damage. It’s been 25 years since I donated,…..the scar tissue will be there forever.

  19. Tracy
    January 30, 2018

    I’ve been donating for over 6 months now, twice a week unless I’ve been deferred. I agree, it would be good to know how long is to long to prevent any issues to the any one who donates. At the center I go to, you answer questions about your health EVERY TIME and they screen you for low iron and low plasma protein every visit also. As well as your blood pressure and heart rate. If you bruise or if anything is off, they won’t take your plasma, AND you have to be re-evaluated by the doctors for certain deferrals. I’ve not been sick, from the donations, and the staff are trained phlebotomists. It’s sanitary and clean, they have strict regulations they follow. It’s to help people that need it. Sounds strange to some people, but I just found out from somebody I know they have a relative that uses plasma medication. I know I won’t do this forever, but it’s good to know I’m getting some funds I need, and best of all, someone’s life is better because of donating.

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