FAQs - LifeSource



Donate Blood

Who can donate?

The basic qualifications for donating whole blood include being at least 18 years of age (16 or 17 years old with a signed parental consent form) and weighing at least 110 pounds. Donors must also be in generally good health and feel well on the day their donation. Click here for more information on eligibility requirements.

Can I eat before I donate?

It is very important that donors drink plenty of decaffeinated fluids and eat a good meal within four hours of donating. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before donating is also recommended.  For more on donor preparation, click here.

What should I bring at the time of donation?

You must bring at least one form of photo ID, which includes your full name (e.g. driver’s license). It’s also recommended to bring a list of medications that you are taking and a list of places outside the U.S. you have visited within the past three years.

What is the general process for donating blood?

From registration to post-donation refreshment,s it takes approximately an hour to donate a unit of whole blood. Times may vary for other blood donations but the process remains the same:

1. Registration: Sign in and provide us with your name, date of birth, address and additional demographic information.

2. Medical Screening: Answer confidential medical history questions and complete a mini physical, including measuring blood pressure, temperature and pulse.

3. Blood Donation: Donate a unit of whole blood in approximately 10-15 minutes (no more than 20 minutes).  Other donation types may take longer.

4. Post-Donation Refreshments: Remain in our canteen for about 15 minutes, eating a snack and drinking plenty of decaffeinated fluids.

How will I feel after I donate?

The majority of our donors feel fine after donating. We highly recommend our donors remain in the canteen for 15 minutes after donating for a light snack and plenty of decaffeinated fluids. We recommend continuing to drink decaffeinated fluids for 24 hours post-donation.

Can I exercise after donating?

Light exercise is fine. Avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for about 24 hours.

How do the different blood components work?

Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to all tissues and return carbon dioxide to the lungs.

Plasma, the fluid portion of blood, contains water, albumin, hormones and clotting factors and is where the blood cells are suspended.

Platelets are small plate-shaped cells that cluster together to help form blood clots when bleeding occurs.

White cells protect against disease and infections.

Can I get AIDS from donating blood?

Absolutely not. There is no risk of contracting AIDS, or any other disease, through the donation process.  Each collection kit is sterile, pre-packaged and used only once.

Do I have enough blood in my body to donate?

Yes. The body contains 10 to 12 pints of blood. Your whole blood donation is approximately one pint.

How often can I donate?

Whole blood: every 56 days

Double red blood cells: every 112 days

Platelets: every 7 days, up to 24 times a year

Plasma: every 29 days

Can donated blood be stored indefinitely until it is needed?

All components of whole blood have a shelf life for human transfusion. Red blood cells have a 42-day shelf life. Platelets have a shelf life of five days. Plasma has a shelf life of one year.

Why are there blood shortages?

LifeSource strives to maintain an optimum inventory level of seven days. For various reasons, including the unpredictable demands from trauma incidents, the blood inventory fluctuates hourly.

Residents of our area are the beneficiaries of a first-rate health care system that relies on an adequate blood supply. Low blood inventory levels can potentially disrupt the delivery of health care and affect patient treatment.

With less than three percent of the Chicagoland population donating blood, it’s a challenge to meet the heavy blood product demand. LifeSource must import blood to meet the demand of area patients; if every eligible donor donated twice a year, LifeSource would be self-sufficient.

Are the health history questions during the medical interview necessary each time I donate?

To ensure the safest possible blood supply, all screening questions must be asked of all donors at each donation. The Food and Drug Administration requires that all blood centers conform to this practice.

You can now use DonorPass to complete the health history questionnaire before arriving at one of our participating locations, starting at 12:01 a.m. the day of your donation. To find out more about DonorPass, click here.

How much time does it take for my body to replace the blood that I donated?

The volume of fluids will adjust within a few hours of your donation. Red blood cells will be replaced within a few weeks. When donating through the apheresis process, donors receive back into their body the blood products that aren’t used at the time of their donation.

How will my blood be used?

Blood donations are separated into three components: red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Red blood cells are primarily used for cancer patients, liver transplants, anemic patients, ulcer patients and trauma victims. Platelets are needed for cancer and leukemia patients. Plasma is mainly used for patients with bleeding disorders and burn victims.

The majority of the blood and blood products donated with LifeSource are distributed to hospitals in the region.

If I have a cold or the flu, can I donate blood?

For your safety, and the safety of the recipient, in order to donate LifeSource requires that you be in generally good health (symptom-free) and feeling well on the day of your donation.

How long will the actual donation process take?

The actual donation for whole blood takes about 10 – 15 minutes. The entire whole blood donation process, from registration to post-donation refreshments, takes about one hour. Donation time varies for other donation types — click here for more information.

Do I have to be a certain age to donate?

In general, donors must be at least 18 years of age to donate, 16 or 17 years of age with signed parental consent form. Autologous donors can donate at a younger age if accompanied by a parent.

Is there an age limit to donating?

There is no upper age limit to donating.

Do I have to be a certain weight to donate?

Yes. You must be at least 110 pounds to donate whole blood, platelets or plasma.  Men must weigh at least 130 pounds and women must weigh at least 150 pounds to donate double red blood cells.

Do I need to make an appointment to donate blood or do you take walk-ins?

When you are donating whole blood, it is strongly recommended that you make an appointment prior to your donation to limit the waiting time and help make your experience faster and more convenient, but it is not required. Walk-ins are always welcome.

Appointments are required for apheresis donations. Please call 877.543.3768 to schedule an apheresis appointment.

Where can I donate blood?

LifeSource has 17 community donor centers located throughout the Chicagoland area. For locations, hours of operation and the types of donations available at that center, please see our map of community donor centers.

You may also donate at a mobile blood drive. Click here to search for upcoming mobile blood drives in your area or call 1-877-LIFESOURCE (877.543.3768).

Can I donate my own blood for surgery?

This donation type is called an autologous donation. Donors must have a doctor’s prescription. After receiving the prescription, donors may schedule an appointment by calling our Special Donations Office at 847.260.2707 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

Can I donate blood after receiving a flu shot?

There is no waiting period to donate after receiving a flu shot.

I just took an aspirin or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Am I allowed to donate?

Yes, if you are donating whole blood. There is no waiting period from the time that you took the aspirin.

If you are donating platelets, please do not take aspirin 48 hours prior or any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 12 hours prior to your scheduled donation time. Tylenol is acceptable, as it is not a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Can I be paid for donating blood?

For the safety of the blood supply, blood donations at LifeSource are strictly voluntary. We hope the reward for donating blood is the self-satisfaction and gratification of knowing that up to three area lives were saved thanks to you.

If I was deferred once before, am I still ineligible to donate?

We contact donors who are permanently deferred.

Temporary deferrals are eligible to donate once their deferral period has expired. A short list of reasons for temporary deferral can be found on our eligibility page. This list is not complete. Please contact our Medical Help Desk 847.260.2647 with specific questions regarding eligibility and/or the donation process.

Prior to each donation, donors complete a mini physical and medical interview. At that time, eligibility for donating on that particular day is determined.

How can I organize a mobile blood drive in my community?

To organize a mobile blood drive in your area, please submit an inquiry through the Contact Us page. For more information about hosting drives, click here.

What is a Replenish the Need Blood Drive?

Replenish the Need (RTN) blood drives are drives held in honor of a person from a community who has used, or who will soon be using, blood. For example, the John Doe replenishment blood drive may be held because John Doe recently had a transplant that required 30 units of blood. John Doe’s family and friends donate to replenish the community’s blood supply.

Sometimes, these drives are confused with a directed donation, in which blood is donated directly to a person in need. When donors donate at an RTN drive, the blood goes to the community blood supply, not specifically to the recipient.

Please click here if you are interested in learning more about RTN blood drives.

What is a directed donation?

A directed donation is when a family member or friend donates for a specific patient in need. The blood goes directly to the patient in need, who has requested that friends and family donate specifically for them. Blood types must be compatible between donor and intended recipient. Prior to donating, the donor must obtain a prescription from the patient’s doctor. For more information, click here.

Is LifeSource affiliated with the American Red Cross?

LifeSource is not affiliated with the American Red Cross.

How can I become a volunteer?

We have volunteer opportunities beyond being a blood donor. For more information, or to fill out an application to become a volunteer, visit our section on Volunteers.

If I have further questions, whom may I contact?

Please refer to the Contact Us page, so that you may find the appropriate department to answer your question.