How to Donate White Blood Cells

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White blood cells are protective cells in the blood that fight infection. These cells can exit the bloodstream through the vessel walls and defend against invading properties at the site of an infection. White blood cells are transfused to patients who have life-threatening infections or have a greatly reduced white blood cell count. Donation of white blood cells is done through a process called "apheresis." Apheresis allows for the collection of specific components of blood, including white blood cells.

The Process

  • You must be in good health to donate white blood cells. You also must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. Do not take aspirin or any products with aspirin within three days before donating white blood cells.

  • Make sure you schedule an appointment with your local hospital or blood donation center to meet patient requirements because donated white blood cells must be used within 24 hours. Donations may be scheduled as often as twice a week.

  • Before donating, you will be asked to take prednisone, which prevents the release of materials in the body that can cause inflammation. This medication will help to increase the amount of white blood cells in your body.

  • A healthcare worker will inject a needle into one vein in each of your arms. The blood from one arm will run through a sterile tubing and into a centrifuge. In the centrifuge, platelets will be separated from your whole blood.

  • Once your platelets have been divided, your red blood cells, plasma, and a saline solution to replace fluid will be returned to your other arm. Only a small amount of blood will be taken out during the process.

  • The entire process takes up to two hours. While you are donating, you can watch TV, listen to music, or just relax.

Tips & Warnings

  • You don't need to worry about possible infections or sickness because the instruments for donation are sterilized and then discarded after every donation.
  • Donating white blood cells takes twice as long as donating whole blood.

References

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