Healthy people can do a wonderful thing by donating blood and plasma. While blood drives are common and most people know the ins and outs of blood donation, donating plasma is a bit different.
Who can donate?
In principle, anyone eligible to donate blood is also eligible to donate plasma in Hamburg. Most people between the ages of 18 and 68 can donate blood as long as there are no health concerns and certain criteria are met. For example, being underweight or pregnant could pose a health risk for donation. Piercings and tattoos or a trip to the tropics can also prevent a blood donation. To keep the residual risk of infected blood as low as possible, each donor must sign a self-assessment of risk before donating. Every donation is also tested for pathogens in the laboratory.
Germany has allowed gay and bisexual men to donate blood and plasma since 2017. However, they must confirm in their pre-donation self-assessment that have not had sex with another man within the last year. In effect, this still bars most gay and bisexual men from blood donation, which is an ongoing subject of protest in Hamburg and throughout the country.
Before you donate
If you’re interested in donating plasma, you should make an appointment with Blutspendedienst Hamburg (Blood Donation Service Hamburg). Before your appointment, you should keep the following in mind:
- You must have donated blood at least once before donating plasma
- Make sure you are well hydrated
- Don’t donate on an empty stomach, but avoid oily or fatty foods, as this impairs the quality of the plasma and can make it unusable
- If you are a woman who takes the contraceptive pill, allow a period of at least three hours between taking your oral contraceptive and your donation appointment
At your appointment
At your appointment, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire and given a physical exam to check your hemoglobin (red blood cell) levels, blood pressure, pulse and temperature. This is to fully assess your donation eligibility and will happen even if you’ve donated plasma before, since small changes could affect your ability to safely donate.
If everything is in order, you will be given the green light for donation.
Does plasma donation differ from blood donation?
Yes, donating plasma and donating blood differ in some significant ways, including the following:
- Amount: when you donate blood, you can expect to give about 500 milliliters, whereas in the case of a plasma donation, you can lose up to 850 milliliters
- Frequency: men can donate blood up to six times in a twelve month period and woman only a maximum of four times; however, you can donate plasma almost every week - up to 45 times a year
- Duration: while a plasma donation can take up to 60 minutes, blood donation usually only lasts a maximum of 14
- Process: plasma is obtained directly when it is drawn, whereas whole blood is separated into its components in a central manufacturing process after donation. When the blood is spun in a centrifuge, at least two products are created: erythrocyte concentrate (a concentration of red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen in the body) and plasma. If necessary, a platelet concentrate (concentration of blood platelets) can also be produced from whole blood donations.
What are the risks and side effects of plasma donation?
Specialists are always on hand if your plasma donation should cause any problems. The risks of plasma donation are minimal, but a small percentage of donors may experience the following possible effects:
- Tingling in the fingers, toes, tongue, or mouth in response to the anticoagulant
- Nerve damage
- Muscle spasms
- Irregular heartbeat
If you notice these symptoms or anything else unusual, alert someone on the blood donation team. They have the necessary expertise to quickly and effectively alleviate your symptoms.
Where can I donate?
Blutspendedienst Hamburg has five donation centres: Altona, Harburg, Hamburg Nord, Wandsbek and Neumünster. Visit their website for more information and to make appointments at any of the centres.
You can also donate blood and plasma at the blood donation services of the UKE Hamburg.
Is it currently possible to donate during the 2020/2021 COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic?
(As of June 5th, 2020, 12:00 p.m.) Both blood and plasma donations are still possible and urgently needed, especially in difficult times. Due to the general uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, the number of donations in Hamburg has decreased. But you do not expose yourself to an increased risk of infection when you donate thanks to the strict infection control measures and the excellent hygiene standards at donation centres.
In order to avoid bottlenecks, the Robert Koch Institute and the Hamburg Blood Donation Services appeal to all those willing to donate who are healthy and have not been in risk areas in the past few weeks to continue donating blood. This applies to plasma donations as well.
The Hamburg blood donation service also calls on coronavirus patients who have already recovered to donate plasma specifically. In this way, patients in life-threatening situations are given the chance of a cure through antibody therapy. If you have survived your own COVID-19 illness and are ready to donate plasma, please contact the blood donation service in Hamburg directly.