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Emily Bernhagen

Blood Donation FAQ

Find basic blood donation FAQs here

Giving blood is a quick, simple way to give back to your community. The donation process from the time you arrive to the time you leave is about an hour, find out all you need to have a great experience!


Are you ready to host a drive or schedule your donation?

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  • Can I donate blood if I take medications?

    Most medications will not defer you from donating blood. Before you make an appointment, however, check our medication deferral list.

    If you are currently taking antibiotics, you are eligible to donate two days after your course of treatment is complete.

  • How often can I donate?

    Time restrictions between blood donations are placed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to keep you safe. You can donate whole blood every 56 days. You can donate more frequently if you donate platelets or plasma. You can donate red cells every 16 weeks.

  • What about my health history?

    There are a few additional conditions that may prevent you from donating, including:

    • Receiving any blood transfusions in the last 12 months
    • A history of hepatitis B or C
    • High risk for HIV or AIDS
    • If you've ever taken Tegison
    • If you've ever injected illegal drugs
  • Can I donate if I've traveled to foreign countries?

    The short answer is yes. There are some exceptions, though:

    • If you lived in Europe in the '80s and/or '90s (risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease)
    • Countries where malaria is prevalent
  • Who may donate blood?

    Generally, anyone in good health can donate. Make sure you do not have a cold, flu or sore throat at the time of donation. For more information visit our Am I Eligible section.

  • Can I donate if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

    Pregnant women are not eligible to donate blood - your body needs all the nutrients it can get! We recommend speaking with your doctor at your 6-week checkup after your baby is born and verifying whether or not it is OK for you to start donating blood again.

    Women who are breastfeeding are eligible to donate. Most say that eating a healthy meal and staying hydrated helps ensure a successful donation.

  • I have tattoos and/or piercings. Can I donate?

    As long as your tattoo or piercing has healed and was done at a state-licensed facility, yes. If your tattoo or piercing was not done at a state-licensed facility, you must wait 12 months before attempting to donate.

Blood Donation for 16-year-olds

  • Do other states allow 16-year-olds to donate blood?

    Nearly 30 states (including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin) have permitted blood donations from 16-year-old donors and many have been accepting those donors for years.

  • How can donors prepare for their blood donation?

    Donors should get a good night’s sleep, eat a good meal and drink plenty of fluids in preparation for their donation.

  • How often can one give whole blood?

    You can donate whole blood every 56 days or eight weeks, up to six times per year.

  • Is it true that 16-year-olds can now donate blood?

    In Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, yes. Donors who are 16 years old, in general good health and meet the general criteria are able to donate with parental consent. By becoming a blood donor your son or daughter is showing great civic responsibility, maturity and a sense of community pride. Please refer to our height and weight chart on the Blood Donation for Students page to verify eligibility to donate.

  • What form of identification (ID) is needed to donate?

    The following forms of ID with a birth date and photo will be accepted:

    • Driver’s license
    • State-issued ID card
    • Student identification card
    • Passport, visa or green card
  • Where can I obtain a parental consent form?

    Parental consent forms for 16-year-old donors in Indiana and Ohio, Michigan, Illinois (English and Spanish), and Wisconsin are available from staff at all blood drives and donor centers. High school blood drives will receive copies of consent forms from a Versiti Donor Recruiter prior to the scheduled drive date.

  • Why does Versiti require parental consent forms for 16-year-olds but not 17-year-olds?

    According to state statues, parental consent is required for 16-year-olds, but not 17-year-olds. Some schools require parental consent forms for 17-year-old donors, but Versiti is not required by law to collect parental consent from 17-year-olds. 

    All 16-year-olds must have a parental consent form to donate at any donation site including:

    • Community blood drives
    • Donor centers
    • High school blood drives (16-year-olds donating at high school blood drives should return the signed form as directed by the blood drive coordinator. A new form is required each time a 16-year-old donates.)
  • Why should I give blood?

    This is a volunteer opportunity like no other. Versiti is the only provider of blood to the community hospitals where you live and work. Medical technology has provided many life-saving discoveries over the years, but there is still no substitute for blood. In a medical emergency, often the most important element is the availability of blood.
    Your blood donation can help:

    • Trauma victims
    • Surgery patients
    • Premature babies
    • People with anemia
    • Cancer patients
    • Many more

Donation Process

  • How long does it take to give blood?

    The process for whole blood donation usually takes about one hour. The blood collection itself is usually about 10 minutes. The donation process includes registration, a brief medical screening, blood collection and refreshments. Expect to spend about 1 1/2 hours for apheresis (platelet, red cells) collections.

  • How long until my blood is used?

    All blood donations are processed and available for use between 24 and 48 hours following donation. Whole blood is processed into components (red cells, platelets, plasma). After processing, the red cells can be stored for 42 days. Plasma can be frozen and stored for up to 12 months. Platelets (from whole blood or by apheresis) expire after five days.

  • How often can I donate blood?

    Time restrictions between blood donations are placed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to keep you safe. You can donate whole blood every 56 days. You can donate more frequently if you donate platelets or plasma. You can donate red cells every 16 weeks.

  • I’m afraid of needles. Does giving blood hurt?  

    Giving blood does not hurt. You might feel a pinch when the needle itself first goes into your arm. During that pinch, think about the patient –– maybe a young child, mother, or a grandparent –– who is counting on your donation. You may experience discomfort for a few seconds, but you’ll have the lasting reward of knowing you saved a life.

Post Donation

  • How long will it take to replace my blood?

    The body will replace the fluid portion of your blood within 24 hours. It will take a few weeks to replace the red blood cells.

  • How long will it take to replace my iron?

    Approximately 6 months or more with a healthy diet.  1-2 months with an iron supplement. Replace iron loss by taking an oral iron supplement daily for 60 days immediately following your blood donation. We recommend taking an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement or multivitamin containing 18mg of elemental iron per day.

  • How often can I give?

    Whole blood donors may give once every 56 days in order to allow plenty of time to replenish their red cells. Double red cell donors can give every 116 days, and platelets donors can give once a week up to 24 times a year.

  • How will I feel after I donate?

    Most people feel fine after donating blood. Your body makes new blood constantly, and the fluid you give will be replaced within hours. Eating a full meal before donating will help you feel strong afterwards. Drinking water and juices before and after donating also helps your body replenish lost fluids. Strenuous activity should be avoided for 12 hours after donating. If you have a hazardous or strenuous job, you should donate at the end of your work shift. 

Hosting a Blood Drive

  • Do I need to have the drive at my organization’s offices? We don’t have the space.

    Generally, as a blood drive coordinator, it is up to you to find an appropriate location for your blood drive. However, our teams in Wisconsin and Illinois also have the ability to host a drive on a bus, which just needs ample parking space outside of your building.

  • How far in advance should I schedule a blood drive?

    Ideally, planning 8 to 12 weeks before the actual date works best. This gives you time to organize and recruit, helping to ensure a successful drive. Smaller windows of time can be accommodated. Again, this is something you can discuss with our staff.

  • How many donors do I need to have a blood drive?

    A minimum of 20 donors is needed to host a blood drive. Our largest drives host over 200 donors. Most smaller drives are held over a 4-hour period; larger drives can stretch over a longer time.

  • How much time should donors set aside to donate blood?

    It takes about 60 minutes from registration to refreshments in the café. The actual blood donation time is approximately 10 minutes.

  • What are the steps in hosting a blood drive?

    Our blood drive planning timeline checklist offers a checklist of what you should do and when, but here’s an overview to ensure that your blood drive will go as smoothly as possible:

    1. First, contact Versiti in your preferred region (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana or Michigan) or complete a blood drive interest form and discuss possible dates and the size of your group. If you plan to host the drive at your facility, our staff will stop by to look at the room you have selected to ensure there is adequate space, lighting, outlets, etc.
    2. Then, we recommend forming a committee to divide duties such as logistics, recruiting and decorating. Versiti staff will provide drive materials and will remain in contact with you to answer any questions.
    3. On the day of the drive, Versiti's mobile crew will arrive before the start of your drive to set up all equipment. After your drive has ended, our crew will break down all equipment and transport it away.
  • What’s the most important thing in ensuring a successful drive?

    Getting donors committed to giving is absolutely critical. Studies have shown that the main reason people haven’t donated blood is that no one asked them. Forming a committee and personally asking people — even signing them up for donation times — is the best way to ensure that you’ll achieve your goal. If there is someone from the organization with a personal story about needing blood, ask if they are willing to share their story. Real stories can create a personal connection and provide further motivation for blood donation.

  • Why should my organization host a blood drive?

    Hosting a blood drive has several direct benefits:

    • Your donations are of crucial importance for local hospitals. Everyone in your group – from organizers to donors – can feel good about helping patients who depend on receiving that blood.
    • Hosting a blood drive can be a very visible extension of your organization’s values because it shows that you are working together for the good of the community.
    • Individuals who work together to plan the drive can benefit from the leadership experience it provides.
    • Some organizations find that hosting a blood drive brings their entire group together because there is an opportunity to rally around a very real and important community cause.

Babesia Testing

  • Why does Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin test my donation for Babesia?

    If you spend time outdoors or up north during Wisconsin summers, then you probably know about deer ticks. Their bites can be a nuisance for people and pets, and some deer ticks carry Lyme disease and Babesia.

    Babesia infects red blood cells and causes Babesiosis, which can be a severe, life-threatening disease in infants, elderly, people with weak immune systems and other serious health conditions. While many people who carry Babesia feel fine and show no effects, others can develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, nausea and fatigue.

    Wisconsin is a prime spot for deer ticks, along with Minnesota and the northeast part of the United States. Babesia is the most commonly documented cause of transfusion-transmitted infection. Summer, and in particularly July, is when most cases of Babesia are reported.

Blood Safety

  • How long is blood good for?

    Whole blood is only useful to patients for 42 days. After that, it "expires" and must be destroyed. Platelets (a particular blood cell that is collected in concentrated doses during apheresis donations) have a "shelf life" of only five days. This is why there is a constant need for blood and donors.

  • Is donating blood safe?

    Donating blood is completely safe. You cannot contract any diseases from donating blood. A sterile kit is used once and thrown away. Versiti is committed to the safety and comfort of donors.

  • Is it safe to receive blood?

    Yes. The blood supply is the safest it's ever been, especially since the implementation of nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT). NAT is a more sensitive gene-based test to screen the blood supply for HIV, hepatitis B and C. Fifteen tests (11 for infectious diseases) are performed on each unit of donated blood

  • What happens to my blood after it’s donated?

    After your blood is collected, it is sent to Versiti labs for testing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all blood undergo a series of lab tests before it is given to patients. We perform 15 separate tests on blood. These include tests for sexually transmitted diseases, West Nile virus, hepatitis and other illnesses. If a unit of blood passes all of these tests, it is safe for use.

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Hemoglobin and Blood Count

  • What should I do to increase my blood count?

    Taking an iron tablet can be beneficial in helping to replace the iron lost in the process of donating blood. Multivitamins with iron generally contain small amounts of iron, but can be sufficient if taken daily. There are also a number of stronger oral iron pills available over the counter at most drug stores. These pills replace the lost iron more rapidly and are generally less expensive than multivitamins. If you choose to take an oral iron tablet, your physician or pharmacist can provide more specific information about the advantages and disadvantages of different oral iron supplements, and help you decide which may be best for you.

  • What are the causes of a low blood count?

    Low blood counts can have a number of causes and they vary between women and men.

    Causes for low blood count in women:

    The most common cause of low blood count in women who are premenopausal, is iron deficiency caused by menstrual blood loss. Women of childbearing age have high iron requirements because of the extra iron needed for menstruation and pregnancy. Eating iron-rich foods may be sufficient to correct iron deficiency in some individuals; however, some women will need to take oral iron supplements in order to increase their blood count enough to donate blood. 

    If you are a post-menopausal woman and not donating three or more times per year, your blood count may still be within the normal range for women, but not high enough to donate blood. Please note that the lower end of normal range for non-African-American women is 11.3 gm/dl and for African-American women is 10.5 gm/dl. If the test performed today indicated that your blood count is below normal range, you may need to see your personal physician for further testing to determine the cause of your low blood count.

    Causes for low blood count in men:

    If you are not donating three or more times per year, your deferral today indicates that you may have a medical condition which is causing your low blood count.  In men, a blood count below 13 gm/dl is considered anemic. Your personal physician can perform additional testing to confirm the cause of your low blood count and determine its cause.

  • Why was I unable to donate blood today?

    A low blood count is the most common reason that potential donors are not able to donate (deferral). The blood taken prior to donation provides a hemoglobin value. You were deferred because your blood count (hemoglobin value) was below the lower limit of acceptability to donate, which is 13 gm/dl for men, and 12.5 gm/dl for women.

Iron for Blood Donors

  • Are hemoglobin and iron the same thing?

    No! Hemoglobin is the protein that functions within red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron is an essential mineral important for the structure and function of hemoglobin and several other proteins in the body. 

  • Can I overdose on iron?

    No, if the iron supplementation is taken as recommended.

  • How long does it take to restore iron post-donation?

    Approximately 6 months or more with a healthy diet. 1-2 months with an iron supplement.

  • Should I take an iron supplement?

    Yes. Replace iron loss by taking an oral iron supplement daily for 60 days immediately following your blood donation. We recommend taking an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement or multivitamin containing 18mg of elemental iron per day.

  • What is the difference between testing for hemoglobin and testing for iron?

    Your hemoglobin level tells us how many red blood cells are circulating in your body right now, and how much will be left after you donate one unit of blood. 

    When iron is measured by ferritin level, it is an indicator of the body’s total iron stores and therefore your capacity to make more red blood cells to replace the ones you’ve donated. 

    Ferritin testing must be performed at a laboratory and cannot be performed at the time of your donation. Blood Centers are now evaluating how to utilize this test in assessing a donor’s ability to be a frequent blood donor.

  • Why is iron important?

    It is important to keep a healthy iron level so your body can build new red blood cells daily and also replace those you donate. Iron is also important for normal growth and development, energy level
    and brain function.

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