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How much can you really earn selling blood plasma?

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If you’ve been thinking about selling plasma as a way to make some extra cash, you’re not alone. According to a Western Michigan University study,1 more than 53 million people donated plasma in 2019 alone.

However, there are some things you should know before visiting your nearest plasma center: 

  1. Not everyone can donate plasma
  2. There are some health risks involved
  3. You might not earn a consistent amount

Brenden S., 34, of Chicago, says he started donating plasma twice a week starting in 2019 and continued to do so for nearly two years as a way to make some extra money. Brenden says he earned between $50 and $200 per session, depending on promotions run by the donation company.

While he says the process was initially simple — he just sat and watched movies on his phone while he was donating — he stopped going after several difficult sticks by the medical staff that left him bruised and another occasion where he passed out. 

“Overall, it was worth it for the short-term financial gain, but I’m happy to have moved past it,” Brenden says.  

If you’re considering donating plasma, keep reading for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about plasma donation so you can decide if it’s right for you:

About donating plasma

Before you donate plasma, here’s what you need to know: 

What is blood plasma? 

According to the American Red Cross,2 at its most basic level, plasma is the liquid portion of blood, which makes up about 55% of a person’s total blood volume. The remaining 45% is a mix of platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells suspended in the plasma. Plasma is 92% water combined with vital proteins.

Plasma serves four main functions within the human body:

  • Carries electrolytes such as potassium and sodium to our muscles
  • Helps maintain blood pressure and blood volume
  • Helps maintain a proper pH balance in the body, which supports cell function
  • Supplies critical proteins for blood clotting and immunity

Plasma donations are administered to burn, shock, and trauma patients, as well as to people with multiple clotting factor deficiencies or severe liver disease. Plasma is used to prevent blood clotting and shock and is also used in treatments for bleeding disorders and immune deficiencies.

Is donating blood the same as donating plasma? 

Donating blood and donating blood plasma are two different things. According to the Red Cross, whole blood donation is the most flexible type of donation because it can be used in multiple ways: 

  • Transferred in its original form as whole blood
  • Separated into plasma, platelets, and red blood cells

During plasma donation, plasma is separated from the platelets and red blood cells, which are returned to the donor’s body.

If you are getting paid for plasma donation, is it really a donation? 

While you can make money selling plasma, the payment is in exchange for your time, not necessarily the plasma itself, since the process to extract plasma can take about an hour. 

“Donating plasma is a gift,” says Jessica Jennings, Senior Regional Director of Octapharma Plasma, which operates more than 170 donation centers across the U.S.3 She says donors are paid for their time as an incentive, but any income earned from plasma donations is tax-free for the individual donating.

Is it safe to donate plasma?

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services,4 donating plasma does not cause side effects for most people, though some donors may experience:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Fainting

HHS advises people to drink water after donation, eat iron-rich foods, and rest. For more severe reactions, they recommend seeking medical attention.

How much does plasma donation pay?

So how much can you get for donating plasma? That depends on several factors, including:

  • Where you live
  • How much you weigh
  • Where you donate
  • How frequently you donate
  • Local promotions

After researching payouts at several blood plasma donation centers, we found that most pay between $50 and $100 per session in your first month. CSL Plasma5 claims people can make more than $700 in their first month. 

However, several Reddit users say payouts decrease after the first month. One user recommends switching between multiple donation centers to take advantage of introductory rates, which tend to be higher to get you in the door: 

Another person recommended taking a 6-month break to restart promotions: 

Can you get paid more for different blood types? 

Although you cannot get paid more for having a specific blood type, the American Red Cross6 says AB blood donations are in higher demand, since AB is the only universal plasma, meaning it can be given to patients of any blood type.

AB plasma can be administered to patients immediately, which saves time in critical situations. 

Where can you donate plasma?

If you want to donate blood plasma for money, these are some donation centers that have locations across the United States:

  • American Red Crossc 
  • Biolife Health & Wellness
  • Biomat
  • CSL Plasma
  • Grifols
  • Octapharma
  • One Blood
  • Talecris

Find a plasma donation center near you:


Donating plasma requirements

There are standard requirements for plasma donation, and some donation centers may have additional regulations. According to HHS,4 plasma donors should be:

  • At least 18
  • Not have gotten a tattoo or piercing within the last 4 months
  • Pass a medical exam and complete an extensive medical screening, including testing negative for hepatitis and HIV
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds

Each donor is also screened to make sure they are healthy and eligible to donate plasma. This health screening includes a review of medical history and an in-depth health questionnaire. This process can take over an hour for the first visit, though health checks for subsequent visits take less time. 

Jennings says if you are taking certain medications, including some antibiotics, have any medical conditions, or have recently undergone certain medical procedures, you may not be eligible to donate. She recommends contacting your local donation center ahead of time if you have a condition that might affect your eligibility.

Jennings says these are some conditions that could disqualify you from donating: 

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Diabetes
  • Organ or bone marrow transplant
  • Any major issues with the heart, lungs, liver, or kidneys. 

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not eligible to donate plasma. Jennings says women can typically start donating again 6 to 12 months after delivery, including C-section births, miscarriages, or pregnancy terminations.

“You should consult your doctor about when it is safe to begin donating again,” Jennings says.

Plasma donation process

To have the best experience possible, HHS recommends following these tips before you donate plasma:

  • Drink plenty of water — according to Giving = Living,5 an HHS site, plasma donation can reduce blood volume by about 32 ounces
  • Avoid caffeine 2-3 hours before your appointment
  • Eat a healthy, low-fat meal
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol
  • Dress comfortably and wear a short-sleeved shirt or one with sleeves that can be rolled above the elbow
  • Drink plenty of water. Eat healthy, especially protein-rich and iron-rich foods a few days leading up to plasma donation
  • Sleep well the night before

While each center has its own process for screening donors and collecting plasma donations, this is what you can generally expect: 

  1. After you check in at the donation center, you’ll undergo a health screening that includes taking your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. If it’s your first time going, you’ll be given a health screening and physical exam. Jennings said this exam is repeated on a yearly basis to make sure you are still eligible to donate. 
  2. Once you’re approved to donate, you’ll be set up at a plasmapheresis machine, a specialized medical device that collects whole blood from a vein in your arm. It separates out the plasma and returns the remaining blood components — red and white blood cells and platelets — to your body. 
  3. Like whole blood donation, a needle is used to access your vein. During the plasma donation process, you may be given a saline solution or oral fluids to replenish the lost fluid in your body. Plasma center staff will monitor you throughout the process to make sure you are comfortable and safe. The donation process takes about an hour.
  4. Once the plasma donation is complete, you’ll be asked to stay at the facility for about 10-15 minutes to make sure you are well hydrated and feeling well enough to travel home.
  5. Staff will show you how to care for your bandage and provide a few at-home instructions/symptoms to watch out for. Jennings recommends continuing to drink water and eating a small meal after donation to restore energy levels. 

What should you bring when you donate plasma? 

If you’re donating plasma, you may need to provide: 

  • Government-issued ID
  • Proof of address (driver’s license or utility bill)
  • Proof of social security number (pay stub, social security card, or a W-2 form)

To avoid being turned away, call the donation center ahead of your scheduled appointment to verify what documents they require.

Answers to FAQs about plasma donation for cash

If you’re thinking about donating plasma, here are some things you should know:

How old do you have to be to donate plasma? 

You must be at least 18 years old to donate plasma. Most centers also have age cutoffs, typically between 65 and 75. 

Can you donate plasma if you have tattoos? How long after tattoos can you donate plasma? 

Jennings says you can donate plasma if you have tattoos, but you must typically wait at least four months after getting a new tattoo or piercing to donate again. 

Can you donate plasma if you take medication or do drugs? What are some common medications that would disqualify you from donating plasma?

Jennings says you cannot donate under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to the Red Cross, most medications will not disqualify you from donating blood, though the conditions they treat might.6

Can you donate plasma if you are sick? 

Even if you have a mild cold, being sick will prevent you from donating plasma, at least until a few days after you are feeling well again. 

Can you donate plasma if you are obese? 

You can donate plasma as long as you are at least 110 pounds and in relatively good health. If you are concerned about weight, contact your local plasma donation center to see if they have any maximum weight limits.

Do plasma centers test blood for drugs? 

Yes, most centers will test your blood for drugs. Jennings says Octapharma tests all plasma two times for certain drugs, blood type, and atypical antibodies before it is used for lifesaving measures, medicines, and therapies.

Can you donate plasma after surgery? How long should you wait after surgery until you can safely donate plasma again? 

Depending on the type of procedure, individuals recovering from surgery may be required to wait several months before donating plasma. You should consult with your doctor before heading to a donation center.

How often can you donate blood plasma? 

According to HHS, the maximum plasma donation frequency is once in a two-day period and no more than twice in a 7-day period. Jennings says eligible donors can donate plasma up to twice a week, with two full days between donations.

The bottom line of donating plasma for money – is it worth it? 

While payouts vary by location and depending on current promotions, if you donate plasma twice per week at $50 per donation, you stand to make an extra $400 per month, which is a pretty good side hustle

Jennings says donating plasma is a valuable, life-saving act and can only be sourced from human donations, noting that it takes 1,200 donations to treat one hemophiliac for a year.

“Every donation has an impact, and we are tremendously grateful for all of them,” she says. 

Check out these other ways to make money and get free resources:

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  1. “The Interlinkage between Blood Plasma Donation and Poverty i the United States,” June 2021. The Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare: Volume 48 Issue 2.
  2. “The Importance Of Plasma In Blood,” American Red Cross.
  3. “Find Your Plasma Donation Center,” Octapharma Plasma.
  4. “Give Plasma,” Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy. Departments of Health and Human Services.
  5. “Donation Rewards at CSL Plasma,” CSL Plasma.

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