Plasma Donation: The Side Hustle That Saves Lives

by Amanda Finn
Some plasma donation centers refer to donating your plasma as giving “the gift of life”—and they aren’t kidding!

There are a lot of positives to donating plasma. Not only is it a great way to earn some pocket money, it’s a vital life-saving process.

According to the Red Cross, plasma donation is particularly important if you’re part of the 4 percent of Americans nationwide who have AB blood types because “type AB plasma is the only universal type and can be given to patients of any blood type” and “plasma products are used by burn, trauma, and cancer patients.”

The Atlantic in 2014 stated that Americans made up more than 70 percent of worldwide plasma donations. And, as their 2014 article makes clear, there are pros and cons to the donation “biz.”


What is plasma?

The Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA) defines plasma as “the clear, straw-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other cellular components are removed. It is the single largest component of human blood, comprising about 55 percent, and contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies, and other proteins.”

Just like donating blood, plasma donation is crucial for members of our community who rely on certain therapies. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of donation eligible Americans donate plasma or blood let alone both.

The major difference between blood and plasma donation is that individuals are usually rewarded monetarily for their plasma whereas they aren’t for their blood.

What’s the deal with donating?

Here’s the scoop: depending on where you live and how much you weigh you will be compensated for your plasma donation. Generally, compensation ranges from $20 – $50. Sometimes the plasma donation centers also run bonus campaigns where donors can earn even more money for their time.

Not everyone is eligible to donate, however, and you will undergo a physical before your first donation. You will also have your blood drawn and tested for various levels like protein before each donation. If your levels aren’t in a certain range you will be turned away for the day.

The PPTA lists out what new donors need to know about qualifications on their website:

  • Plasma donors should be at least 18 years old

  • Plasma donors should weigh at least 110 pounds

  • Must pass a medical examination

  • Complete an extensive medical history screening

  • Test non-reactive for transmissible viruses including hepatitis and HIV

  • Follow a recommended diet including 50 to 80 grams of daily protein

They also advise donors to check in with their plasma centers and prepare properly for donations.

Before donating plasma it is important to:

  • Drink plenty of water or juice to be fully hydrated

  • Notify center personnel if you have had recent surgery

  • Notify center personnel if you have obtained a tattoo or piercing within the past 12 months

  • Notify center personnel if you are taking medication or are under a doctor’s care for any medical condition

Recent tattoos or piercings are a big one. If you lie to the center about your body modifications and they find out about it you could be banned from donating not just at their location but other plasma donation centers as well.

Make sure you hydrate after donating too. Plasma is over 90 percent water and donors will be dehydrated post-donation. That’s why donation centers strongly advise against manual labor or hard exercise for at least one to two days following donation.

Following the advice of the center staff is imperative to having an overall healthy donation experience.

What do they do with it?

Plasma donation centers will often coin the phrase “the gift of life” when referring to plasma donation. For some people, it truly is the difference between life or death so donating plasma is pretty much a win-win for anyone who feels compelled to spend 90 minutes or so in a center.

There are a great many uses for donated plasma and the PPTA lays out the most common uses on their website:

Clotting Factors: People with bleeding disorders are unable to clot blood properly. As a result, a minor injury may result in internal bleeding, organ damage and even death.

Immunoglobulin or IVIG: There are more than 150 primary immune deficiency disorders (PID). These individuals have improperly functioning immune systems and do not respond to traditional antibiotics. Without IVIG, they are exposed to frequent and often serious infections.

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin: Alpha-1 is more commonly known as genetic emphysema. It is a heredity condition that may result in serious lung disease in adults and lung and/or liver disease in both children and adults.

Albumin: Albumin is used to treat burns, trauma patients and surgical patients.

Hyperimmuneglobulins: These are used to treat rabies, tetanus, dialysis patients and organ transplant recipients. They are also used to treat pregnant women who have Rh incompatibility, a condition where the mother and fetus have incompatible blood that can lead to serious injury to the unborn child or even death.

Side notes.

Donating plasma isn’t meant to fully replace a job or any other side hustles. While some donation centers will allow you to donate twice a week, the Red Cross advises against donating more than once a month.

Medical News Today, in their 2017 article on the topic, also advises against donating more than once every 28 days largely because the effects of frequent, long term donation are still unknown.

Even if you are strapped for cash, donating more than once a week might not be a good idea as donating plasma takes a lot out of a person. If you donate twice in one week, you will not feel great even if you hydrate while maintaining a healthy, protein filled diet.

What will you do with that extra cash?

While it might be tempting to spend your plasma donation money on a good old-fashioned splurge, you’d be better off using that money to start an emergency fund. That way, you’ll be prepared for surprise bills and unexpected financial shortfalls.

Without an emergency fund, you might find yourself relying on short-term bad credit loans and no credit check loans (like payday loans, cash advances, and title loans) when the going gets tough.

Even choosing an affordable installment loan can’t compare to a well-stocked emergency fund. We can’t tell you how to spend your money, but we strongly recommend you use to protect yourself from future financial disaster.

To learn more about how you can earn extra money, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:

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