Plasma Donation Tips and Tricks
Simple Tips and Tricks for Easier Donation
So, you’ve decided to donate plasma. Good for you! Your donation is very important, and the people who receive your plasma, although you don’t hear directly from them, are very thankful. You’re doing a wonderful thing.
However, you’re having some trouble during the donation process. Maybe you’ve been told that your plasma is “cloudy." Or perhaps you’ve noticed someone else, who is donating the same volume as you, is finishing their donation a lot more quickly than you. Why is this happening? Well, after 5 years of donating plasma, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m here to share my knowledge of the most common donation issues I've experience and/or seen.
If you’ve been told that your plasma is “cloudy” it could be because you’re eating foods that are fatty. Did you eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger before you went in for your donation? Although the meat in your burger may be providing the protein and iron your body needs for a good donation, you’ll also be consuming a high level of grease, making your plasma appear cloudy. I’ve actually seen a donor who has clogged up the plasmapheresis machine because their plasma is so thick due to a diet like this. Eating leaner meats and avoiding greasy foods before your donation will help clear this up considerably.
Long Donation Times
If you’re noticing that your donation time seems to be considerably longer than others around you, it may be due to dehydration. If you’re not drinking enough water throughout your day, it’s going to make your blood “thicker." When this happens, there is less plasma (the liquid part of your blood) that can be extracted during each donation cycle. This means you’ll have to sit through more cycles in order to extract the pre-determined amount of plasma. So, you’ve heard it since grade school… don’t forget to drink your water!
Your donation time may also be longer than others, if you aren’t opening and closing your hand during the extraction cycle. Opening and closing your hand aids in the flow of blood through your veins. I prefer to use a “squeezy ball” or stress ball during my donation.
Vibrating or Tickling in the Arm During Donation
If you’ve ever experienced this, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This happens when the needle is resting on the side of your vein (on the inside). This can be easily fixed by having the Phlebotomist either adjust the rate at which the blood is being extracted from your body, or by adjusting the position of the needle in your arm.
Faint or Dizzy Feeling
I’ve never experienced this, personally, but I’ve seen a hand full of people who have. This is very common in people who haven’t eaten well enough before their scheduled donation. If you’ve donated blood, it’s the same idea. It can also be common for those whose hematocrit levels just meet the minimum requirements. If you’ve ever been diagnosed as having anemia, or borderline anemia (which I am), this can also make you feel a little dizzy after your donation (similar to standing up too fast). Be sure to sit up on the edge of the donation bed slowly, make sure you’re okay, before exiting the donor floor.
Once you leave the donation center, you may need to eat a small snack to help relieve any dizzy feelings you may still feel. This usually passes quickly, but if you’ve noticed this happening, keeping a snack on hand to eat immediately after your donation will help. And be sure to eat your iron-rich foods!
Bleeding at the Puncture Site
Remember, after your donation, the site of your needle stick will be covered with a gauze bandage and wrapped to hold the gauze in place. This bandage should be left on for 1-2 hours to ensure that the puncture site has formed a clot and any bleeding has stopped. I’ve actually had times when I’ve had to pull the gauze bandage off very slowly to prevent the newly formed scab from being pulled off with the bandage. If your puncture site does start to bleed, either you didn’t leave the bandage on long enough, or the puncture hole has been re-opened. You’ll want to re-bandage your arm with new gauze and leave it on as long as it takes for the new scab to form and all bleeding to stop.
Pain at the Puncture Site
If you experience any pain in your arm during your donation, let the Phlebotomist know immediately. This can usually be fixed by having them reposition the needle within the vein. However, a sharp, strong pain may be an indication that the vein being used for your donation has “blown” or broken open. In the 5 years I’ve donated plasma, this has happened to me one time. If it happens, you’ll know. Although, not common, it does happen.
I hope these little bits have helped you understand, and correct, some of the issues that arise during your plasma donation.
If you're having problems with low hematocrit or protein numbers, you can read the article I wrote about this particular problem.
Again, happy donating!
Questions & Answers
How do I speed up blood flow while donating?
The only thing I know of that actually helps speed up your donation (other than the speed of the actual machine itself), is being hydrated. Staying hydrated daily, not just on donation days, will help immensely.
Does wiggling your feet help with donating plasma?
I've never been asked to wiggle my feet, just to squeeze and release the foam "stress ball" repeatedly during the extraction part of the donation cycle.
Should I always use the same arm when donating plasma?
They recommend switching between arms to reduce the soreness after donations, but it's totally up to you. After a few years of donating, I had one arm that was a lot faster than the other, so I used it exclusively for a long time. The center didn't have an issue with it; it's more about what works best for the donor.
Is it ok to eat salmon the day before your plasma donation?
I've never heard of any issues with salmon, or other seafood being an issue prior to donation.
But, since salmon is a more oily fish, if you eat it before your donation, it may cloud your plasma, making it less desirable.
I donate plasma and when it’s time for the saline the machine stops. Do you know why this happens?
Usually, if there's an issue with the return, it'll also have issues during the return of blood cells, not just the saline.
Apparently, some donation centers will not do the saline for males, and they will instead give them a bottle of water or sports drink instead since they are less likely to have adverse reactions to the donation process than women.