Learn More About the Blood Bank at University Hospital

You can't anticipate when you, a loved one, or friend will need blood.

Blood Facts

Whole Blood

  • Every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • Nearly 21 million blood products are transfused each year.
  • All blood donated at University Hospital is used in-house for our patients.
  • Red blood cells must be used within 42 days of collection.
  • 1 Pint = 1 unit of blood
  • The average adult has about 10 pints of blood in their body.
  • On average, a single heart surgery uses the red blood cells and platelets from six donations.
  • Last year the hospital transfused over 30,000 units of blood.


  • Platelets are critical for cancer patients.
  • Platelets must be transfused within 5 days after donation.
  • On average, a single bone marrow transplant uses platelets from about 120 donations and the red blood cells from about 20 donations.
  • Severe burn victims need the platelets from about 20 donations during treatment.

Components of Whole Blood

Red blood cells

Red blood cells are donut-shaped cells produced in the bone marrow that take up oxygen into the lungs and deliver it to all of your tissues. They also take carbon dioxide back to your lungs to be exhaled.

Each unit of Red Blood Cells, normally gets separated into several components and may be stored, refrigerated, for a maximum of 42 days.

White blood cells

White blood cells acts as a primary defense line for the body against bacteria. While other types of white blood cells, can produce antibodies against protein antigens of foreign material.


Platelets are tiny, irregularly shaped cell fragments made in the bone marrow. They're needed in your blood to start the clotting process of small injuries to blood vessels. Platelets are important in the control of bleeding and are generally used in patients with leukemia and other forms of cancer.

Platelets are stored at room temperature and may be kept for a maximum of five days once collected.


Plasma carries blood cells, nutrients, enzymes, hormones, and complex proteins through your body. Its proteins are also essential in helping your blood to clot.

Plasma is usually kept in the frozen state for up to one year.

Frequently Asked Questions About Blood Donation

Who can donate now?

The FDA has removed restrictions on blood donation. These formerly excluded groups can now donate:

  • Donors who lived in Europe associated with a military base who were deferred due to Mad Cow disease may now donate. This does not include people who were based in England – they are still excluded.
  • Donors who were deferred due to travel to certain countries are now deferred for only three months.
  • Donors who were excluded due to needle sticks, tattoos or piercings are now deferred for only three months.
  • Donors that have a greater potential of transmitting HIV such as men who have recently had sex with another man; or women who have had sex with a man who had sex with another man have decreased their deferral from 12 months to three months.

In addition, the FDA wants you to know:

  • You won’t be tested for COVID-19 when you donate
  • Asymptomatic individuals will not spread the disease through a blood donation. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, not a blood illness.

Who cannot donate blood?

There are a number of reasons why some individuals may not be permitted to give blood. Here are the most common: 

  • Medical conditions that can temporarily or even permanently keep a person from giving blood include:
  • Low iron level
  • Respiratory infection, cough, sore throat or cold/flu
  • Diarrhea or abdominal pain
  • Medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Travel to countries where malaria has been regularly found. If you traveled to Europe in the 80’s - 90’s, please check with the donor services staff.

Why do iron levels matter?

Iron is a part of a protein in your body that carries oxygen to your tissues.

How can I improve my iron levels?

If you have been told that you cannot donate blood because your iron count is too low, you may try some of the items listed below to help increase your iron count.

  • Grains - bread, tortillas, cooked cereal, dry cereal, English muffin
  • Meat - liver, fish, poultry, red meats, shellfish
  • Meat substitutes - egg, nuts, peanut butter, and cooked dry peas, beans, lentils, lima beans
  • Fruit - strawberries, bananas
  • Juices (canned) - tomato, apple, prune
  • Vegetables - raw dark leafy greens (spinach, collards)
  • Fast Foods - hamburger, cheeseburger, pizza (cheese or pepperoni), beef taco, bean/beef burrito

Having a low iron count is the number 1 reason why people cannot donate blood. The average dietary intake for a woman should include 18 mg of iron a day. The average dietary intake for a man should be 10 mg a day. If you are unable to include more iron-rich food in your diet, check with your physician about a possible iron supplement.

Is there a weight or age requirement?

Yes, you must weigh at least 110 lbs. and be at least 17 years of age. You can check our height and weight chart to verify eligibility.

How long does it take?

  • The Whole Blood Donation process takes about 30 minutes, from start to end, and actual donation takes 8-10 minutes.
  • Platelet Donation can take up to 2 hours, from start to finish.

Is there anything I should do before I donate?

Eat! We recommend eating within three hours before you plan to donate to minimize the risk of not feeling well after donation.