Frequently Asked Questions About Donating Blood
Who can donate blood?
Anyone in good health that is at least 16 (with parent consent) and weighs 110 lbs may be eligible to donate. Please view our eligibility guidelines HERE.
Why should I donate blood?
The answer is simple – You could save up to 3 people’s lives! Blood can only be given from one person to another – there is no other source! Volunteer blood donors are needed daily to give blood for the thousands of patients who need it. Less than 5% of the eligible population donates. However, more than 90% of the population will need blood in their lifetime.
Who uses my blood?
Your donated blood is used as part of life-saving treatment for a patient at MGH, MassGeneral Hospital for Children, Spaulding Rehab, Shriners Burn Hospital for Children, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Blood is needed everyday by patients spanning from newborn to geriatrics. The blood you donate will help to save up to 3 lives! Click here to read some stories of our patients who have used blood products in the past.
How much blood is taken during a donation?
A little less than one pint of blood (about 450 mL) is taken for each whole blood donation.
How much blood is in my body?
Depending on weight, the average adult has between 9-12 pints of blood in their body.
How long will it take to replenish my blood after donation?
The blood volume is typically replaced within 24 hours. Red blood cells take between 4-6 weeks to completely replace, which is why the FDA requires an 8 week wait between blood donations.
Does it hurt to donate blood?
Worrying about how it will feel is generally the biggest concern. Fortunately, what you feel is no different from a regular blood draw – most donors will feel an initial pinch, without further discomfort.
How will I feel after donating blood?
Most people feel fine after donation! Immediately after, you will be invited to have some juice/water and a snack. Regular activities can generally be resumed right after. We do ask that you refrain from any heavy lifting or extraneous exercise immediately after.
How long does donating take?
If you schedule an appointment, the entire process will take about 30-40 minutes (for whole blood donations). The actual blood draw takes about five to seven minutes.
What happens to my blood after I donate?
Your donation will be typed and tested for multiple infectious diseases. Blood is then separated into its 3 components (red blood cells, plasma, and platelets). After testing, the blood is stored in refrigerated cases until it is needed. Blood does not stay on the shelf long – most units are used within days of donation.
Why do minority populations especially need to donate blood?
There is a greater amount of blood types O and B in minority populations than in Caucasians. Because large amounts of blood are needed to treat Sickle Cell disease, which appears primarily in minority populations, there is a growing need for minority blood donors.
Of the 5 percent of the population that donates blood, only 10 percent are African-American or Hispanic. During transfusions the patient's blood must match as closely as possible in both the type and specific antigens of the blood being transfused. Because we inherit certain antigens from our ancestors, someone of the same race and ethnicity is typically found to be a better match for them.
I don’t know my blood type, can I donate?
Yes, in fact you will receive a card several weeks after your donation which will let you know your blood type! All types are always needed!
Can I donate blood directly for my (Brother, Husband, Child, Friend)?
Blood is donated towards the general supply. You can make an honorary donation, in which we will give you a card that can be presented to your family member or friend letting them know that you donated blood in their name.
I had Covid-19. Can I donate?
Yes, you can donate 10 days from the last day of symptoms or a positive test if you remained asymptomatic (without symptoms).
I don’t live near MGH can I donate anywhere else?
Yes, our bloodmobile goes out everyday throughout Eastern MA – find a drive near you HERE.
I had a Flu/Covid shot or booster, how long do I have to wait?
There is no wait time for covid or flu shots or boosters as long as you are feeling well and healthy.
I had a tattoo or piercing, can I donate?
You are eligible 3 months after a tattoo. There is no waiting time for a piercing if done using sterile single-use equipment.
WAIT, I lived in the UK and was told I can’t donate! Can I donate now?
YES! The FDA has recently revised their guidelines on donors from the UK and Europe, please visit our eligibility guidelines HERE.
I am part of the LGBTQ+ community, can I donate?
Please view our LGBTQ+ information HERE.
I am on medication, Can I donate?
Yes, most medications are acceptable for donation – please see our medication list HERE.
Do I get any compensation for donating?
No, blood used for transfusion must be donated by volunteers.
Can I donate Plasma?
MGH does not collect plasma, please see our donation types HERE.