Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about Donating

Before your donation

Why should I give blood?

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. Blood donations can help a variety of individuals: trauma victims, surgery patients, premature babies, individuals with anemia, cancer patients and many more.

Who can donate?

Anyone who is age 17 or older may be eligible to donate blood. Individuals who are 16 years old may be eligible to donate with parental consent. 

  • You must bring a valid picture ID prior to donation.
  • Donors age 19 and up must weigh at least 110 pounds.
  • Donors age 16 to 18 must weigh 122 pounds.
  • Potential donors must be in general good health, without any cold or flu symptoms.
  • Learn more about donating blood.

What is needed for someone 16 years old to donate blood?

Individuals who are 16 years old, at least 122 pounds and in general good health may donate blood with a signed parental consent form. As The Blood Center is currently participating in a clinical trial to screen all donated blood for the Zika virus, a Research Participant Information Sheet is included with the parental consent that 16-year-old donors should take home to have signed. As of Friday, Sept. 23, 2016, 17-year-old donors are no longer required to have a signed parental consent.

How do I make an appointment to donate blood?

If this is your first time donating with us, please call the Neighborhood Donor Center nearest you to schedule your appointment. If you have donated with us before, you can schedule your appointment by logging on to Digital Donor.

Are there any special instructions I should follow before donating whole blood?

You should eat a hearty meal and drink plenty of fluids one to two hours before donating blood. 

Click here to read on for a quick overview of what happens, and watch our video below for some helpful tips for a great donation!

What does iron have to do with my donation?

The blood you give us contains iron. Iron is the “fuel” that helps your red cells carry oxygen to the tissues. Most donors replace the iron lost during donation by using iron already stored in their bodies. If your iron stores are low before you donate, or if you give blood frequently, you may become iron deficient and need to do more to replace the lost iron.

Low iron is very common in the U.S., even before people begin to donate. But, blood donation can contribute to low iron. A low hematocrit, the test we do when we stick your finger during the screening process, happens late in iron deficiency, so you can have iron deficiency and still have a normal hematocrit level.

Health problems from low iron levels before the hematocrit falls are rare.

The most reliable way to prevent low iron is to take an iron pill or multivitamin containing iron (read the label) to replace what was removed when you donated. They are available over the counter and are much faster and more reliable than trying to do it with a high-iron diet.

Taking 18-38 mg of irononcedaily for eight weeks replaces the iron lost in a whole blood donation. This amount has no more side effects than a sugar pill.

The second way to prevent low iron is by donating less frequently, but that will make maintaining the blood supply more difficult.

If you are a frequent donor or want to be one, taking iron pills or multivitamins with iron is highly encouraged following blood donation. Refueling your body with iron prepares you for the next donation, which supports the patients who depend on the availability of blood. 

Donors most likely to become iron deficient are:

Those during periods of rapid growth

  • Teenagers and young adults 
  • Women during pregnancy

 Donors with hematocrit levels near or below the minimum required for blood donation

  • Hematocrit at or below 38% for women 
  • Hematocrit at or below 39% for men

Frequent donors

  • Women, ages 16-50, who give more than one  whole blood/red cell donation per year 
  • Men, and women over 50, who give more than two whole blood/red cell donations per year 
  • Platelet donors giving more frequently than once a month. 

If you are a frequent donor or are at risk for having low stores of iron, taking an iron supplement is highly recommended. Talk to your health care provider to decide if iron is best for your health.

The day of your donation

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

The following forms of ID will be accepted:

  1. Driver's license
  2. State-issued ID card
  3. Student identification card
  4. Passport, Visa or green card

Can you explain the blood donation process?

Donating blood typically takes less than one hour from the time you arrive until you are ready to leave. First you will register with basic information such as your name, address and birthdate. You also will present identification that shows your name and photo. Then, one of our Donor Collections staff will check your blood pressure, temperature, pulse and hematocrit level; take a look at your arm to make sure it is clear of any signs of infection; and ask you confidential questions about your health to ensure that you are eligible to donate blood that day. Based on your blood type, eligibility and patient needs, our staff will determine your optimum donation. If you are planning to give an automated donation, you will also have your weight taken.

A whole blood donation takes between five and 10 minutes; automated donations take longer, depending on the procedure. Afterwards, we ask that you remain on site at the blood drive or Neighborhood Donor Center and enjoy refreshments for at least 15 minutes to ensure you are feeling well before going about your day.

What is considered normal and high blood pressure?

Blood pressure levels available here.

How much blood is taken?

A unit (about one pint) of blood is drawn. This procedure takes about five to 10 minutes. The average person has between 8 and 12 pints of blood in their body. It takes about one month to replace the blood that is donated.

How long does it take?

The entire process, from registration to post-donation refreshments, typically takes just under an hour. A whole blood donation takes between five and 10 minutes; automated donations take longer, depending on the procedure. Afterwards, we ask that you remain on site at the blood drive or Neighborhood Donor Center and enjoy refreshments for at least 15 minutes to ensure you are feeling well before going about your day. We encourage donors to make and honor appointments to avoid long delays. To make a donation, visit Where to Donate or Digital Donor.

What if I was deferred due to low hematocrit?

Having low hematocrit levels is one of the most common reasons individuals are deferred from donating blood. Female blood donors must have a minimum hematocrit level of 38 percent, and the minimum hematocrit level for male donors is 39 percent. This minimum level is set by the FDA for the safety of the donor. Hematocrit levels below 38 percent for women and 39 percent for men may be normal for you or they may mean you have a condition called anemia.

Taking 18-38 mg of irononcedaily for eight weeks replaces the iron lost in a whole blood donation. This amount has no more side effects than a sugar pill.

Click here to learn more about iron stores and how you can prevent low iron.

After your donation

How will I feel after I donate?

Most people feel fine after donating blood. A unit of blood (500 ml) is a little more than a pint, and the average adult body contains 10 to 12 pints of blood. Your body makes new blood constantly, and the fluid you give will be replaced within hours. Eating a full meal within four hours before donating will help you feel strong after donating. Drinking water and juices before and after donating also helps your body replenish lost fluids. You should avoid alcohol before and after donating. 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. Smokers should refrain from smoking 30 minutes after donating.

How often can I donate?

Giving whole blood requires a waiting period of 56 days between donations; however, all we ask is for individuals to Commit for Life and donate once every quarter. If you donate plasma (your red cells are returned to you), you may donate every 28 days. If you donate platelets (your red cells and most of your plasma are returned to you), you may donate every seven days, with a maximum of 24 times per year.

If you are type A blood you would make a terrific platelet donor! It takes a little more time, but it helps people who are quite ill.

Remember, type AB blood makes good plasma donors, and type O and B blood make good red cell or whole blood donors.

If you donate double red cells (most of your plasma is returned to you), you must wait 112 days before your next donation. Double red cell donors must meet certain weight, height and hemoglobin (iron) requirements.

How long will it take to replenish the pint of blood I donate?

Your body will replace the blood volume (plasma) within 48 hours. It will take four to eight weeks for your body to completely replace the red blood cells you donated. The average adult has eight to 12 pints of blood. You will not notice any physical changes related to the pint you donated.

What happens to my blood after I donate?

Your blood will be tested for various infectious agents, including HIV and hepatitis. It will then be processed into components (red cells, platelets, plasma). After processing, red cells can be stored for 42 days, platelets can be stored for five days and plasma can be frozen for one year. Your single unit of blood can help save the lives of up to three separate patients.

Can I Donate If…?

Click on the topic that applies to you to find out if you can donate. 

If you have a question about whether or not you can donate that isn't answered here, please call (713) 790-1200 or email us. We will respond to your email within 24 hours, during regular business hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

I have traveled outside the U.S.

This list is NOT a complete list of countries, just the most visited countries. If the country that you have visited is not listed, you may call (713) 791-6612 or (713) 791-6608 or email Medical Services.

LocationComments
Africa

Algeria - No deferral.

Botswana - Gaborone and Francistown – No deferral. All other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.

Kenya - Not eligible for one year after return.

Nigeria - Not eligible for one year after return.

South Africa - Large cities such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth - No deferral. Game parks, provinces of Northern, NE Kwa Zula-Natal, Mpumalanga Provinces - Not eligible for one year after return.

Tanzania - Not eligible for one year after return.

Uganda - Not eligible for one year after return.

Argentina

None

Azerbaijan

None

Belize

None

Caribbean

NEW! The chikungunya virus (CHIKV) has received increasing attention in North America due to the high volume of travel to and from the Caribbean islands. Individuals who travel to this region during the two weeks before donation are asked to call The Blood Center if they develop unexplained post-donation illness with symptoms consistent with acute tropical infections, including fever, joint pain, headache and rash. Donors who have been diagnosed with CHIKV are not eligible for 28 days after recovery.

Bahamas - No deferral.

Dominican Republic - Risk in all areas (including tourist resorts of Puerto Plata and Punta Cana) except no risk in cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago only. Travel duration greater than 24 hours to areas other than Santo Domingo or Santiago – 1 year deferral after return.  No deferral if donor did not travel outside of the cities of Santo Domingo or Santiago for more than 24 hours.

Honduras - Cities of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa or Island of Roatan for less than 24 hours - No deferral. Other areas or Island of Roatan for more than 24 hours - Not eligible for one year after return. 

Cruises visiting a port located in a malaria-risk area for less than 24 hours - No deferral.

China

Large cities and typical tourist areas including Yangtze River cruise - No deferral. 

Travel to rural, non-tourist areas - Not eligible for one year after return.

Colombia

Bogotá,Cartagena and Medellin – No deferral. All other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.

Costa Rica

No deferral 

Ecuador

Large cities in central highlands (Quito, Ambato, Guayaquil, Cuenca) and Galapagos Islands are acceptable - No deferral.

El Salvador

No deferral

Europe

No deferral unless stayed for more than 6 months associated with the military between 1980 and 1996 or stayed for more than 5 years from 1980 to the present.

United Kingdom - No deferral unless stayed for more than 3 months between 1980 and 1996 or more than 5 years since 1980 to present.

French Guiana

Cayenne City – No deferral.

All other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.

Guatemala

Large cities including Antigua, Quiche, Quetzaltenango, Chimaltango, Huehuetenago, San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala City and around Lake Atitlan - No deferral.

Risk in rural areas - Not eligible for 12 months after return.

India

Not eligible for 12 months after return.

Indonesia

Large cities of Jakarta and Ubud, and resorts of Bali, Java, Gili Islands and the Thousand Islands (Pulau Seribu) or less than 24 hours in rural area - No deferral.

Travel to rural areas for more than 24 hours – Not eligible for 12 months after return.

Mexico

Acapulco - No deferral.

Cabo San Lucas - No deferral.

Calica - No deferral.

Cancun - No deferral.

Cozumel - No deferral.

Isla Mujeres - No deferral.

Oaxaca - No deferral.

Playa del Carmen - No deferral.

Progresso - No deferral.

Puerto Vallarta - No deferral.

Nicaragua

Not eligible for one year after return.

Panama

Provinces of Cocle, Chiriqui, Herrera, Los Santos, San Miguelito, Panama City and Canal Zone areas are acceptable.

Travel to other areas for more than 24 hours - Not eligible for one year after return.

Peru

Ica, Lima, Arequipa, Puno, Tacna Moquegua, Chincha Alta, Pisco, Nazca, Arequipa, Moquegua, Puno, Tacna and highland tourist areas of Cuzco and Machu Picchu, coastal areas south of Lima and Lake Titicaca, or travel outside of these areas for less than 24 hours – No deferral.

Other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.

Philippines

Large cities - No deferral. Rural areas for more than 24 hours - Not eligible for one year after return.

Saudi Arabia

No deferral.

South Korea

All large cities SOUTH of Seoul such as Pusan, Inche’eon, Chonju, Kunsan, Taegu, Teajon, Kwangju, Oktori, No deferral.

Areas north of Seoul and along the DMZ/border of North Korea – Not eligible for 2 years after return

Singapore

No deferral.

Venezuela

Not eligible for one year after return.

Vietnam

Large cities of Da Nang, Haiphong, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Nha Trang, Qui Nhon, the Mekong Delta and the Red River Delta – No deferral.

All other areas for more than 24 hours – Not eligible for one year after return.

I have a tattoo or body piercing.

Tattoos (single-use dye/equipment), acupuncture (licensed practitioner), ear piercings (sterile gun) and all other body part piercings applied in state-licensed* facility – you must wait one week from date of application.

Any of the above procedures applied by self, an unlicensed individual or a facility that is not state-licensed – you must wait one year from date of application.

*Must be a licensed facility in one of the following states:

Alabama · Hawaii · Maine · Nebraska · Oklahoma · Texas

Alaska · Illinois · Michigan · New Hampshire · Oregon · Vermont

California · Indiana · Minnesota · New Jersey · Rhode Island · Virginia

Colorado · Kansas · Mississippi · New Mexico · South Carolina · Washington

Delaware · Kentucky · Missouri · North Dakota · South Dakota · West Virginia

Florida · Louisiana · Montana · Ohio · Tennessee · Wisconsin

I am taking medication.

Find the medication you are looking for and read the comments for that medication. 

Medication

Comments

Accutane, Amnesteem, Absorica, Claravis, Myorsian, Sotret, Zenatane (isoretinoin)

Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose

Anxiety medication

You can donate

Antibiotics

You can donate two days after your last dose

Antibiotics for acne or preventative for urinary track infection/gum disease

You can donate

Anticonvulsant (no seizures for 1 year)

You can donate

Antidepressants

You can donate

Analgesics - Aspirin, Pain Relievers

If medication does not contain aspirin you may donate. If medication contains aspirin, you can donate whole blood or plasma; wait three days after last dose to donate platelets.

Antacids - (i.e. Tums, Prilosec)

You can donate

Aspirin

You can donate whole blood or plasma; wait three days after last dose to donate platelets

Asthma medication (no attack requiring ER visit in past 30 days)

You can donate

Anti-Fungal for localized skin/nails/vagina

You can donate

Anti-Histamine (no or mild symptoms)

You can donate

Aubagio (teriflunomide)

24 months

Avodart, Jalyn

Cannot donate or must wait six months from last dose

Birth control pills

You can donate

Brilinta (ticagrelor) and Effient (prasugrel)

You may not donate platelets until 7 days from your last dose.

CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil)

Indefinite deferral

Coumadin, Jantovin, Warfilone (warfarin), Heparin (low molecular weight heparin), Arixtra (fondaparinux)

Cannot donate or must wait 7 days from last dose

Eliquis (apixaban), Fragmin (dalteparin), Lovenox (enoxaparin), Pradaxa (dabigatran), Savaysa (edoxaban), Xarelto (rivaroxaban)

Cannot donate or must wait 2 days from last dose

Cholesterol medication

You can donate

Decongestant (no symptoms)

You can donate

Diet pill

You can donate

Diuretic

You can donate unless taking it for Congestive Heart Failure, then Indefinite Deferral

Dutasteride (Avodart)

Cannot donate for six months from last dose

Erivedge (vismodegib)

24 months

Feldene (piroxicam)

2 days for platelet donation

Female hormones

You can donate

Finasteride (Proscar/Propecia)

Cannot donate for one month from last dose

Growth hormones from human pituitary glands

You cannot donate

Guardasil (Human Papilloma Virus)

You can donate

Hepatitis B Immune Globulin

12 months

Hepatitis B or C 

Cannot donate at any time 

Hepatitis A

You can donate

Insulin (U.S. licensed)

You can donate

Insulin (beef/bovine) manufactured in the United Kingdom

Cannot donate at any time

Isoretinoin (Accutane, Amnesteem, Claravis or Sotret)

Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose

Odomzo (Sonidegib)

24 months from last dose

Plavix (Clopidogrel), Ticlid (Ticlopidine), Zontivity (vorapaxar)

Can donate non-platelet donations; wait 14 days after last dose to donate platelets

Propecia

Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose

Proscar

Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose

Sleeping pill

You can donate

Soriatane (acitretin)

36 months

Steroids (oral)

You can donate

Steroids (topical)

You can donate

Tegison (etretinate)

Cannot donate at any time

Tranquilizers

You can donate

Thyroid medication

You can donate

Experimental medication or unlicensed vaccine

12 months or as indicated by Medical Director

Vitamins/ Herbal Supplements

You can donate

I recently had a shot, vaccination or immunization.

Find the shot/vaccination you are looking for and read the comments for that shot/vaccination.

Shot/VaccinationComments
Allergy shot You can donate
Botox injection You must wait two days before you can donate
Chickenpox (varicella-zoster) vaccination You must wait four weeks before you can donate
Flu shot (including H1N1) or FluMist You can donate
Gamma Globulin – HBIG (exposure to hepatitis) You must wait one year before you can donate
Gardasil (human papillomavirus) You can donate
Havrix (hepatitis A vaccine) You can donate
Heptavax (hepatitis B vaccine) You must wait four weeks before you can donate
Meningitis You can donate
Novocaine You can donate
Polio You can donate
Pneumonia vaccination You can donate
Rabies (animal bite) You can donate
Routine TB test You can donate
Shingles vaccination You must wait four weeks before you can donate
Steroid injection (joint) You can donate if given for pain or inflammation. You must wait one month if given for infection.
Steroid injection (intramuscular) You must wait three days after the shot before you can donate
TB test for exposure You must wait three days or until the test has been read to donate
Tetanus Booster You can donate

 

Avodart (dutasteride) was approved on October 10, 2002, and became available for prescription in December of 2002. Like Proscar (finasteride), it is for the treatment of symptomatic benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) in men. However, it is considerably more potent. You must wait 6 months after your last dose before you can donate.

I recently had surgery or a skin graft.

Find the surgery or the skin graft you are looking for and read the comments for that operation.

Surgery or Skin GraftComments
Major surgery performed in hospital/surgery clinic (no blood used) You can donate if you have resumed normal activities
Major surgery performed in hospital/surgery clinic - blood transfusion received You must wait one year after surgery to donate - even if autologous blood was used
Minor surgery performed in MD office You must wait one week to donate
Lasik/cataract surgery You must wait one week to donate
Skin Grafts - Autologous You must wait six weeks after the graft to donate
Skin Graft - Allogeneic You must wait one year after the graft to donate
Bone Graft-Allogenic (purified cadaver bone used for dental, lumbar, etc., graft) or Autologous You must wait six weeks after the graft to donate
BIO-OSS dental graft You must wait six weeks after the graft to donate
OASIS non-cellular graft You must wait six weeks after the graft to donate
Heart valve graft (porcine) You must wait six months after the graft to donate
Transplant - Solid Organ from Animal source You cannot donate

I have a common ailment or illness.

Find the common ailment or illness you are looking for and read the comments for that condition.

Ailment or IllnessComments
Diabetes - feeling well and healthy You can donate
Diabetes - symptomatic You must wait 30 days after symptoms disappear before you can donate
Diarrhea You must wait two days after symptoms disappear before you can donate.
Eczema - no infected lesions You can donate
Headache - Severe Migraine You can donate one day after your headache disappears
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (having abdominal discomfort) You must wait two days to donate after symptoms disappear
Mononucleosis You must wait six weeks after symptoms disappear before you can donate
Psoriasis You can donate
Psoriasis - taking Acitretin, Soritane or Tegison You cannot donate
Pneumonia You must wait 30 days after you get well before you can donate
Poison Ivy (no lesions in venipuncture area) You can donate
Ringworm (not in venipuncture area) You can donate
Stroke related to heart or embolism You can donate if it is more than six months since the stroke and your condition is stable.
Stroke related to head injury You can donate if it is more than six months since the stroke and your condition is stable.
Thyroid - Hypo/Hyper - controlled with medication You can donate
Ulcerative Colitis - no medication taken You can donate
Ulcerative Colitis - taking Asacol You can donate
UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) You must wait two days after treatment is finished to donate

I have had cancer.

There is a 1-year waiting period after completing treatment for melanoma and internal cancers, except lymphoma and leukemia, which are permanent deferrals. Minor external skin cancers such as basal or squamous cell you are eligible to donate 2 weeks after the cancer is removed.

I have a circulation or heart-related disorder.

Find the condition you are looking for and read the comments for that condition.

Circulation or Heart Related DisorderComments
High blood pressure (controlled) You can donate
All heart conditions/surgery/angioplasty and heart attacks that have associated chest pain Please contact Medical Services
(713) 791-6612
Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) - (Stable - no chest pain in past six months) You can donate
Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) - (Unstable or chest pains within the past six months) Must have a physician approval letter to donate
Arrhythmia - no pain/no medication or controlled by medication You can donate

I don't have sickle cell anemia, but I carry the trait.

You can donate blood if you have sickle cell trait. However, all blood is currently filtered to help prevent reactions in the recipient. Blood with sickle cell trait does not filter well. We encourage donors with sickle cell trait to donate plasma or platelet apheresis. These two types do not get filtered.

I have a sexually transmitted disease.

If you have genital herpes, chlamydia or venereal warts (human papillomavirus), but no active lesions, you can donate. If you have syphilis or gonorrhea you must wait one year after you complete your treatments and have negative test results.

I’ve made contact with someone who has hepatitis.

If you are hospital personnel or have been exposed via casual contact, you can donate. If your contact has come from a member of your household (sexual contact as well), and that person is asymptomatic and not undergoing treatment, you can donate. If that person is undergoing treatment or is symptomatic, you must wait one year before you can donate blood.

Common health topics for men

My PSA is elevated.

If your PSA is elevated due to benign prostate hyperplasia, you you may donate today, unless you are taking Avodart (dutasteride) or Proscar (finasteride). If your PSA is elevated and you are taking Proscar, you may donate one month after your last dose. If you don’t know why your PSA is elevated, please contact our Medical Services Department at (713) 791-6612.

I'm taking Propecia for baldness.

You may donate one month after your last dose.

I have had sexual contact with another male.

You may donate one year after your last sexual contact with another male.

Common health topics for women

I am pregnant or recently gave birth.

You cannot donate until six weeks after giving birth.

I recently had an abortion.

You are eligible to donate six weeks after the procedure.

I recently had a miscarriage.

You are eligible to donate six weeks after the miscarriage.

I am going through Menopause or am having Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Yes, you may donate.

I'm taking birth control pills.

Yes, you may donate.

I'm taking fertility drugs.

Yes, you may donate.

I just had a mammogram.

If you had a routine mammogram, you may donate. If you had a mammogram for CA Dx, you may donate one week after your mammogram. 

I have been given RhoGam/RhIg.

You may donate in 12 weeks.

I have a vaginal yeast infection.

Yes, you can donate.

In the past 12 months I have had sexual contact with a male who has used IV drugs.

You are eligible to donate one year after your last sexual contact with this partner.

I have had sexual contact with a male who in the past 12 months has had sexual contact with another male.

You may donate one year after your last sexual contact with this partner.

Questions about the Commit for Life Program

What benefits are available for individuals who donate blood?

In addition to helping save up to three lives, blood donors receive many benefits For example; all donors receive a mini-physical exam at the time of their donation. This includes the determination of hemoglobin levels, blood pressure, temperature, blood type and various blood screening tests. Additionally, individuals who Commit for Life receive points that can be redeemed for great items in the Commit for Life store.

What do I need to know about the Advanced Wellness Check?

Full details about the Advanced Wellness Check are available here

How can I reach the the next Commit for Life level?

Commit for Life donors enter the program at the Bronze level with one attempted donation. In order to achieve the Silver level, give one or two successful donation in a calendar year, and to reach the Gold level give three or more succcessful donations in a calendar year (two if double red cells). 

How do I get to the Commit for Life online store?

To redeem points, you will access the store by logging on Digital Donor. You'll need your Donor-ID number to log onto Digital Donor. You can find that number on your donor card or by calling (713) 791-6260.

To view the items in the store click here.

To learn how the point system works, click here.

What is CFLexpress?

CFLexpress is a new Commit for Life benefit that allows donors to save time at the donation site by completing their health history interview in the comfort of their home or office. Click here to learn more about CFLexpress.

How do I change my contact preferences?

We want to be able to contact you in the way that is most convenient for you. First-time donors will be asked to provide their phone number, email address and mailing address. You may be contacted through any of these channels.

To update your contact preferences, log in to Digital Donor, click on "Your Account" and then, "Communication Preferences." You may update the contacts we have on file for you or opt out of certain contact methods. If you receive phone calls and wish to be removed from the call list, please let our caller know of this request, or contact our Customer Service staff at (713) 791-6373 or cs@giveblood.org.

We must have a valid mailing address on file for you, as this will be the means we use to contact you if we need to communicate essential information that pertains to your health.

Additional Questions

Is Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center part of or affiliated with the Red Cross?

No. Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is an independent, nonprofit blood center that is not affiliated with the American Red Cross.

Is it safe to receive blood?

Yes. The blood supply is now safer than ever. Every potential donor undergoes a thorough screening by a trained professional, and every unit undergoes many tests to ensure safety.

Which patients use what components?

Every whole blood donation can help save up to three lives. This is accomplished because the donation is separated into three separate components:

  • Red blood cells can be used to help accident victims, surgical patients and people with anemia.
  • Platelets can be used to treat leukemia and cancer patients.
  • Plasma is effective in treating patients suffering from burns or shock.

What is CMV?

A common viral pathogen found in all population groups. Nearly all CMV– infected people are asymtomatic. It causes few problems for healthy individuals. But in newborns and immunocompromised individuals, it may produce a variety of disease processes.

What is vCJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease)?

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) is a fatal degenerative disease affecting the nervous system that is found almost exclusively in the United Kingdom. It has been linked to another disease often referred to as "Mad Cow Disease." The risk of vCJD is unknown, however, only two cases associated with blood transfusion have been detected. Neither was in the United States. 

Current FDA guidelines prevent you from donating blood if you have spent an extended amount of time in the United Kingdom and Europe. The guidelines are:

  • if you traveled or lived in the United Kingdom for a total time of three months or more between 1980 and 1996, you are not eligible to donate blood.
  • If you have traveled or lived for a total of five years or more in any other European (however, does not include Russia) country since 1980 to the present, you are not eligible to donate.
  • If your were associated with the military and stationed on a military base in Europe for more than six months between 1980 and 1990 (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands & the United Kingdom) or for six months or more between 1980 and 1996 (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain & Turkey), you are not eligible to donate blood.

Autologous, Directed and Therapeutic Questions

Why do I need doctor's orders before donating autologous, directed or therapeutic units?

We must have a doctor's request in order to make sure we have all the proper information for the patient (what components are needed, social security numbers, date of birth, doctor's name, fax and phone number, name of hospital, etc.). We also make sure the doctor has authorized the patient to give an autologous or therapeutic donationClick on the links to download the appropriate forms. 

Do you ship blood internationally?

No, clearing the blood units through customs is very difficult. We cannot regulate the blood temperature once it leaves The Blood Center.

What is HBsAG?

HBsAg stands for hepatitis B Surface Antigen. This test identifies hepatitis B antigens and antibodies, which help determine if a person is infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Autologous - donating blood for yourself 

Can I donate blood for myself?

Yes. It is called an autologous donation. Autologous (au-tol-o-gous) blood transfusion is a procedure in which you are transfused with blood that you have donated only for yourself. This type of donation only can be conducted with written permission from your physician. A written order must be faxed to the Autologous and Directed Program of The Blood Center. Your physician can obtain a "Request for Autologous/Directed Donation" form by calling (713) 791-6608 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or you may download it here, and take to your physician to complete.

Why do I have to pay for my own blood?

The charges assessed with an autologous donation are to recover costs for testing, processing and service fees.

If I'm having surgery out of town, can I donate here and have it shipped? And at what cost?

Yes, you may donate with a physician's request at any of our local Neighborhood Donor Centers. But all units must be prepaid before any donations are made. This fee varies depending on how many units your physician wants. It includes testing and processing fees, autologous and/or directed fees, and shipping and handling.

If I don't use my autologous donation, why can't it be released for someone else?

Autologous donations are not drawn under the same criteria as a regular whole blood unit. Some physicians will allow autologous donors to donate who otherwise would not qualify to donate for the general public. Therefore, these units cannot be released for someone else to use.

Directed - donating blood for a specific patient

Will I be charged for directed donations if the donors are not compatible?

If your donors are not compatible there is no charge. But if we are not provided with the patient's blood type when we draw the unit, then we send every donation to the hospital. After the hospital cross-match is done and it is concluded that the donation is incompatible, then there is only the direct fee of $26.

Why does my blood expire sooner if I am a blood relative?

If you are a blood relative, your donation will have to be irradiated to avoid graft vs. host disease (donor's cells attack the patient's tissues). In this instance, the 42-day expiration for red blood cells is then reduced to 28 days.

Why can't I know the names of or other information about my direct donors?

All information is kept strictly confidential in accordance to HIPAA (a set of rules designed to protect patients and their health information).

Therapeutic - donating blood as a form of treatment for yourself

I am required by a doctor to have blood drawn as a form of treatment. What do I need to do?

If you have polycythemia or porphyria cutanea tarda and are required to have blood drawn as a form of treatment, you may come to any Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center Neighborhood Donor Center for the procedure.

With the exception of those with a diagnosis of hereditary hemochromatosis or secondary polycythemia due to testosterone replacement therapy, therapeutic patients will only be drawn on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The therapeutic request form must be completed by your doctor and faxed to (713) 790-1782 at least 72 hours prior to the first collection to allow time for review, Medical Director approval and data entry. Incomplete or illegible orders will not be accepted.

As of July 6, 2016, there is a $150 charge per each phlebotomy for any patient other than those with a diagnosis of hereditary hemochromatosis or secondary polycythemia due to testosterone replacement therapy. The charge also does not apply to Medicare or Medicaid patients.

Download the therapeutic phlebotomy request.

ATTENTION THERAPEUTIC PATIENTS:

Effective June 26, 2018, The Blood Center will require a new request form for all new and existing patients who need treatment more frequently than every eight weeks.

What is new?

  • The new form will ask your provider to indicate how often you need your blood collected for treatment.
  • Your treatment will be limited to one visit per week.
  • If the new request form does not include instructions for how often you should be treated, your visits will be limited to once every eight weeks.

 

Questions about Blood Center Operations

Is The Blood Center a non-profit organization?

Yes, Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is a registered non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization. Our goal is to save lives, not to make a profit. This means that any net revenue over expenses is immediately put back into the organization, for example, to purchase new software, upgrade equipment and to continue making the blood supply as safe as possible. You can view our financial statements on Guidestar.

Do you sell blood donations?

There is no fee for the blood itself, because it is freely donated. However, The Blood Center does charge service fees to the hospitals and other health care providers we serve to recoup the cost of safely collecting, processing and testing each donation. For example:

  • The cost of hiring qualified staff and providing ongoing training.
  • The cost of equipment, like blood bags, needles, gloves, electricity and donor beds, etc.
  • The cost of supplies to test for 10 different infectious diseases (HIV, hepatitis, West Nile, etc.).
  • The cost of driving more than 1 million miles every year to convenient blood drives throughout our region and to deliver blood to hospitals – plus the maintenance of our fleet to ensure safe driving! 

Why do blood transfusions cost so much if the blood is freely donated?

We charge hospitals service fees to recoup the cost of safely collecting, processing and testing each donation. Each hospital may then choose to bill the patient for these service fees, plus the costs associated with safely storing the blood, administering the transfusion or other associated costs, determined by the hospital.

What else does The Blood Center do?

Our mission is to partner with the community to provide a safe supply of blood, blood components and related services. Some of these related services include: 

  • Recruiting and collecting bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell donations through the Gulf Coast Marrow Donor Program, part of the National Marrow Donor Program, which operates the Be The Match Registry.
  • Participating in clinical trials that align closely with our areas of expertise to help advance medical knowledge. Most clinical trials use leftover sample test tubes or units that cannot be used for transfusion and some require consent for donor participation.
  • Performing advanced compatibility testing to crossmatch units for patients through our Consultation and Reference Laboratory.
  • Providing “recovered plasma” for plasma-derived medications. Plasma that comes from a whole blood donation is called “recovered plasma.” Some of this is used for transfusion, but because the other components of whole blood (red blood cells and platelets) are used more frequently than plasma, plasma that would otherwise expire is used to make lifesaving medications.

These related services not only allow us to help more patients in more ways, but they provide revenue that helps us continue to carry out our mission of providing blood and blood products to save lives. 

How is The Blood Center able to help other areas during emergencies?

The Blood Center is committed to serving local hospitals first, then helping others as the blood supply allows. On many occasions The Blood Center has been called upon for help in response to natural disasters, accidents and more. We have been able to send blood to these other areas because local donors made an adequate supply available to do so. Additionally we are a member of Blood Centers of America, an organization that can help support these needs through the resources of nearly 50 independent blood center members.

Blood Center News
The Blood Center teams up with Sickle Cell Association of Houston

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center partnered with the Sickle Cell Association of Houston to host a blood drive Sept. 15 in recognition of Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month.

Blood transfusion is one treatment used to combat complications from sickle cell disease, a form of anemia most likely to affect people of African descent. Prince and her now 27-year-old daughter, Quannecia McCruse, founded the Sickle Cell Association of Houston years ago to educate and provide resources to the community.

 

Drive and save lives

Penny, a local teacher with some free time over the summer, has helped us kick off our new Volunteer Driver program. Are you interested in joining us in our mission to save lives? Call us at (713) 791-6262 or email volunteering@giveblood.org.

Overcoming fear: Donating blood for the first time

I’m a scaredy-cat. I readily admit it. I hate needles. That’s always been my excuse for why I don’t volunteer for anything with a needle. Flu shot? No way. Vaccines? I still remember the sheer terror I felt from them growing up. 

We are always #HoustonStrong

We never know when the next tragedy will strike, but we have to be ready when it does come. 

Meet Eden

CYPRESS – There is nothing more American than baseball and saving lives. Everyone who participates in The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center’s Home Run for Life competition will get a chance at both through June 30.

 

SuperMax is the hero Houston needs!

Max was born with a genetic disorder (neurofibromatosis type 1) that can cause tumors to grow on his nerve endings, and SuperMax has been his alter ego ever since. 

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center mourns Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush helped save lives in our community, and we celebrate her lifetime of accomplishments. The former First Lady set the bar high in her commitment to helping others.

 

Dr. Charles Drew: A Blood Banking Pioneer

Here at The Blood Center, we pride ourselves on being an organization of diversity. We work together to save and sustain lives, and we each bring a unique perspective when it comes to fulfilling our mission.

Tying the knot and saving lives

Hurricane Harvey destroyed homes, cars and many other things, but one thing it couldn’t destroy is the compassion for others in newlywed couple Gilbert and Stefanie Cruz. Gilbert and Stefanie were set to get married just a few days after Harvey passed, but due the storm’s aftermath they had to alter all of their plans on a moment’s notice.

 

Holiday Hugs

Our Holiday Hugs promotion is in full swing. Thanks to our volunteers coming together to attach the messages of well wishes from donors to the bears, our employees have been able to begin delivering the bears to patients at area hospitals. The process of delivering the bears is a heart-warming experience that every employee who participate really enjoys.

 

Blood on ambulances helps EMS agencies save more lives

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center has partnered with two local agencies providing emergency medical services to help save more lives when time is of the essence, now administering whole blood to patients on the ground.

Donor coaches hit the road sporting new look, features

In the last two years, five of The Blood Center's donor coaches have been refurbished. Find out why this is such an important process.

Circle of Life Bike Tour celebrates life

The Lone Star Circle of Life bike tour visits Texas cities to raise awareness of the need for blood, marrow, organ and tissue donations to honor those impacted by these donation types. This year’s eight-day, 600-mile tour included stops in Houston and College Station.

New Steps, New Rewards in Commit for Life Program Update

Beginning Sept. 6, 2017, the Commit for Life program is changing, to help ensure every donor can be rewarded for contributing. Learn more.

2017 Commit for Life Scholarship Winners

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is excited to announce the 2017 Commit for Life Scholarship recipients.

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Blood Center Resources

Our mission is to partner with the community to save and sustain lives by providing a safe supply of blood, blood components and related services.

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center
1400 La Concha Lane
Houston, TX 77054

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