Frequently Asked Questions

Our donors have requested a FAQ (frequently asked question) sheet about many aspects of blood donation and the Bloodworks Northwest. In response to that request we have compiled a set of questions and answers. Feel free to ask our staff for more information on any of the topics.

How long does it take to give blood?
The donation process includes registration, a brief medical screening, the blood collection, and time for refreshments in the canteen. For whole blood the entire donation process usually takes about one hour and the blood collection segment is usually about 10 minutes. For apheresis (platelet) collections the entire process is about two hours.

How much blood is taken?
Whole blood donations are approximately one pint. Apheresis donations also take about a pint of fluid; both weigh approximately one pound.

What are platelets?
Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are tiny cell fragments which circulate throughout the blood and aid in blood clotting.

How often can I give?
Whole blood donors may give once every 56 days in order to allow plenty of time to replenish their red cells. Apheresis (platelet) donors can donate once every 7 days up to 24 times per year because the platelet and plasma components are replaced in the body more quickly than red cells. Platelets will return to normal levels within a few hours of donating. Plasma, the watery substance of your blood, takes a couple of days. The red blood cells, the oxygen carrying cells, can take two weeks or longer to fully return to normal.

How much blood do I have in my body?
As a general rule, women have approximately 10 pints and men have approximately 12 pints of blood.

Is there a minimum or maximum age limit on donating blood?
Minors may donate at 16 and 17 years old with picture identification and a Bloodworks Northwest permission slip signed by a parent or guardian. There is no upper age limit.

Donor deferral, men who have sex with men (MSM)
Bloodworks Northwest and all other blood centers are governed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its mandates, which currently include an indefinite or lifetime deferral for blood donation by men who have had sex with other men (referred to as "MSM").

Current scientific testing is reliable and sensitive, ensuring that any communicable disease would be detected before blood is put in inventory. Since 2006, Bloodworks Northwest and other blood centers nationwide have urged the FDA to review and amend its deferral criteria for prospective male donors who have had sexual contact with another man to make them compatible and consistent with criteria for other groups at increased risk for sexual transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections. Recommended deferral periods for MSM range from one to five years, replacing the current lifetime deferral. Bloodworks Northwest continues to advocate for an FDA review of MSM criteria to align with similar at-risk donors, and with current medical and scientific knowledge.

What is the universal blood type?
Type O negative, occurring in about 8% of the U.S. population, is the universal donor and can give blood to any other blood type. AB positive, which occurs in only 2.5% of the U.S. population, is the universal recipient and can receive blood from any other blood type.

How long until my blood is used?
All blood donations are processed and available for use within 48 hours. Whole blood is processed into components (red cells, platelets, plasma). After processing, the red cells can be stored for 42 days. Plasma can be frozen and stored for up to 12 months and platelets (from whole blood or by apheresis) expire after 5 days.

Are the health history questions necessary every time?
To ensure the safest possible blood supply, all screening questions must be asked of all donors at each donation. The FDA requires that all blood centers conform to this practice.

Why are pregnant women unable to donate?
Although no problems have been reported, the safety of donating blood during or shortly after pregnancy has not been fully established. There may be medical risks to mother and baby if a blood donation is made while pregnant or shortly after pregnancy.

As a regular or frequent blood donor, what do I need to know about iron?
For information about the impact of donation of your body’s iron level and maintaining a healthy iron balance, please visit

Does Bloodworks Northwest pay donors for giving blood?
Bloodworks Northwest is fully committed to remaining a volunteer donor supported organization and does not pay for blood donations. Additionally, FDA regulations do not permit compensation for blood that is used for transfusion purposes as studies have shown that volunteer donors provide a safer blood supply.

Why is there often a blood shortage?
Does Bloodworks Northwest pay donors for giving blood?
Bloodworks Northwest strives to maintain an optimum inventory level of a four day supply. Due to unpredictable demands from trauma incidents the inventory fluctuates hourly. When the supply drops below a three day level, Bloodworks Northwest begins alerting local donors to increase the inventory to a safe operating level.

May I bring children into the screening room or the drawing area?
Due to the risk of exposure to blood and needles in the collection area and the need for complete confidentiality during screening, children must remain in the canteen or waiting areas. We feel that it is important to let the children know what their parents are doing, and if time permits, we are more than happy to answer questions and explain the donation process.

Is Bloodworks Northwest affiliated with the Red Cross?
No. Patients and hospitals in Western Washington are served primarily by Bloodworks Northwest which is a non-profit, community supported organization.

How can I have a blood drive at work?
For more information about the requirements to host a blood drive, please call 800-398-7888 to find a Donor Representative near you.

Where are the donation centers located?
Bloodworks Northwest currently has twelve donation centers located in Bellevue, Bellingham, Eugene (OR), Everett, Federal Way, Lynnwood, Olympia, Central Seattle, North Seattle, Silverdale, Tukwila and Vancouver. The Blood Center also has mobile collection units stationed at each center to travel to work sites, school, etc. throughout Oregon and Western Washington. For more information on center locations or mobile drives call 1-800-398-7888.

Supplemental Documents
Organize Your Blood Drive Brochure
PDF: 6777KB
Donor Commitment Sheet
16/17 Year Old Permission Slip
First-Time Donor Brochure
PDF: 218KB
Questions regarding blood or apheresis donations, call: 800-398-7888.