Frequently Asked Questions About Donating Blood

General 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.
Who can donate?
All potential donors must be at least 17 years old to donate, 16 with parental consent.
  • You must bring a valid picture ID prior to donation.
  • Donors must weigh at least 110 pounds. 16 year old donors must weigh 122 pounds.
  • Potential donors must be in general good health, without any cold or flu symptoms.
  • Learn more about donating blood.
Are there any special instructions I should follow before donating whole blood?
You should eat a good meal that includes iron-rich foods – like red meat; green, leafy vegetables; and iron-fortified cereals – and drink plenty of fluids one to two hours before donating blood.
I heard that 16-year-olds can now donate blood. Is that true?

Yes. Individuals who are 16 years old and 122 pounds (with parental consent), or at least 17 years old and 110 pounds, and are in general good health can donate blood. If your son or daughter is 16 years old and has expressed interest in donating blood, but was not old enough, now could be their opportunity. By becoming a blood donor your son or daughter is showing great civic responsibility, maturity and a sense of community pride. Through their blood donation, your son or daughter has the potential to save up to three lives!

Consent Form - English
Consent Form - Español

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
  5. Personal verification of donor identity
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.
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.
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.
I've traveled outside the U.S. Can I donate?
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 e-mail the .
LocationComments
Africa

Algeria - No deferral.
Botswana - Gaborone and Francistown – No deferral. All other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.
Kenya - All at risk including game parks except for no risk in the city of Nairobi. One year deferral from date of return for travel outside of Nairobi.    
Nigeria - Not eligible for one year after return.
South Africa - Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth - No deferral.
Game parks, 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.

Azerbaijan

Risk in all areas except no risk in Baku.

Belize

Belize City and islands frequented by tourists or offshore cruise excursions - No deferral.
All other areas outside of Belize City including Mayan ruins and river tubing - Not eligible for one year after return.

Caribbean

Bahamas - 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 and Cartagena – No deferral. All other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.

Costa Rica

No deferral except for travel to the Limon Province (except Limon City which is acceptable). Only Limon province is at risk.

Ecuador

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

El Salvador

Cities of San Salvador, San Vincente, Sonsonate, Chalatenango, San Francisco and Sensuntpeque - No deferral.
Rural areas of Santa Ana and Ahuachapan provinces - Not eligible for 12 months after return.

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 and Devil’s Island – No deferral. All other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.

Guatemala

Large cities including Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Guatemala City - No deferral.
Risk in rural areas - Not eligible for 12 months after return.

India

Not eligible for 12 months after return.

Indonesia

No deferral if you did not travel out of cities and into rural areas.

Mexico

Acapulco - No deferral.
Cabo San Lucas - No deferral.
Calica - No deferral if you did not travel outside of the heavily traveled tourist areas or into the jungle/rural areas.
Cancun - No deferral if you did not travel outside of heavily traveled tourist area or into rural/jungle areas.
Cozumel - No deferral.
Isla Mujeres - No deferral.
Oaxaca - No deferral is stayed in city, travel to rural areas one year from date of return.
Playa del Carmen - No deferral if you did not travel outside of the heavily traveled tourist areas or into the jungle/rural areas.
Progresso - No deferral.
Puerto Vallarta - No deferral.

Nicaragua

Province of Managua and all rural areas – Not eligible for one year after return.

Panama

Panama City and Canal Zone area is acceptable.
Travel to rural areas of the provinces of Bocas del Toro, San Blas including San Blas Islands, Veraguas and Darien provinces - Not eligible for 12 months.

Peru

Ica, Lima and highland tourist areas – No deferral. Areas in lower altitudes – Not eligible for one year after return.

Saudi Arabia

No deferral for cities along East Coast, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Taif, Riyadh, risk in Al Bahah, Al Madinah, Asir, Jizan, Makkah, Najran an Tabuk provinces.

Venezuela

Large cities along coast (Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia) are acceptable.
Travel to rural areas and provinces along borders of Columbia, Guyana and Brazil - Not be eligible for one year after return.

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 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.

Can you explain the blood donation process?
Donating blood takes less than one hour from the time you arrive until you are ready to leave. First you complete a registration form with basic information such as your name, address and birthdate. You also will present identification that shows your name and your photo or signature. Then, one of our medical professionals will check your blood pressure, temperature and hemoglobin level (iron); 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. The actual whole blood donation takes between five and 10 minutes. Afterwards, you will be given juice and light snacks to replenish lost fluids during donation.
How long does it take?
The entire donation process, from registration to post-donation refreshments, takes just under one hour. The actual donation takes 5 to 10 minutes. We encourage donors to make and honor appointments to avoid long delays. To make a donation, visit Where to Donate or Digital Donor.
How will I feel after I donate?
Most people feel fine after donating blood. A unit of blood (500 ml) is less 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 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.
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 (as sign of anemia), 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, invitations to specialty recognition events and more.
What do I need to know about the Advanced Wellness Check?
Full details about the Advanced Wellness Check are available here
What is considered normal and high blood pressure?
Blood pressure levels available here.
How can I reach the the next Commit for Life level?
Commit for Life donors reach a new membership level with every donation. If you donated twice last year to become a bronze-level donor, donate three times this year to be a silver-level donor or four times to become a gold-level donor! Every donation helps save up to three lives!
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.

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 blooddonation 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.

Common Questions from Men

My PSA is elevated. Can I donate?
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. Can I donate?
You may donate one month after your last dose.
If I have had sexual contact with another male, even once, from 1977 to the present, can I donate?
You cannot donate.

Common Questions from Women

I am pregnant or recently gave birth, can I donate?
You cannot donate until six weeks after giving birth.
I recently had an abortion, can I donate?
You are eligible to donate six weeks after the procedure.
I recently had a miscarriage, can I donate?
You are eligible to donate six weeks after the miscarriage.
I am going through Menopause or am having Hormone Replacement Therapy. Can I donate?
Yes, you may donate.
I'm taking birth control pills, can I donate?
Yes, you may donate.
I'm taking fertility drugs, can I donate?
Yes, you may donate.
I just had a mammogram. Can I donate?
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, can I donate?
You may donate in 12 weeks.
I have a vaginal yeast infection. Can I donate?
Yes, you can donate.
In the past 12 months I have had sexual contact with a male who has had sexual contact with another male or used IV drugs. Can I donate?
You are eligible to donate after one year.

Health Related Questions

Autologous and Directed Donations Questions

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.
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 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.
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.
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 donation. Click on the links to download the appropriate forms. 
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.
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).
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).
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.

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