We are big fans of donating blood to help others in need of life-saving blood products, so we thrilled about any incentive that encourages others to donate blood, plasma, or platelets. Now you can find out if you have COVID-19 antibodies with your Red Cross blood donation! For a limited time, the Red Cross is now testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations made after June 15 for COVID-19 antibodies – at no charge!
This is not a diagnostic test to show whether you are currently infected with any illness. If you are feeling unwell or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, please wait until you are symptom free for 28 days in order to protect Red Cross volunteers, employees, and others who are donating. See full details.
While we think donating blood and helping others is a reward within itself, there are other incentives. In addition to the free antibody testing, you can expect a snack and drink after your donation. Donation drives often include other incentives such as t-shirts, coupons to local attractions/dining, gift card opportunities, and more. All blood drives are different, and incentives are subject to change.
Incentives are usually listed on the donation appointment details in the app or on the website. A sampling of incentives we found today are Cedar Point/Kings Island ticket and Amazon gift cards (by email). We have also seen ticket giveaways for Columbus Zoo, Zoombezi Bay, and other attractions, depending on sponsor.
Red Cross Antibody Testing
The test used is FDA-authorized Ortho Clinical Diagnostics VITROS® Anti-SARS- CoV2 Total Test, which is specific to COVID-19. No additional blood, platelet, or plasma samples will need to be taken for the test; they will test from the samples routinely drawn for screening and testing.
After your successful platelet, plasma, or blood donation, your antibody test results will be available by logging in to your Blood Donor account on the Blood Donor App or online within 7 to 10 days. You’ll also find your other health stats recorded at donation, including temperature, blood pressure, pulse check, and iron levels.
Note: The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test, and a positive antibody test results do not confirm infection or immunity; a positive antibody test indicates potential exposure to the virus.
- POSITIVE: Result indicates that an individual may have had previous exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 and their body has developed specific antibodies to the virus.
- NEGATIVE: Result most likely means that the individual has not been exposed to COVID-19 and therefore has not developed antibodies to the virus.
- NOT AVAILABLE: Result means that your test result is not yet available or your donation was not tested.
If you are antibody positive you may be eligible to take part in the convalescent plasma donation program. Whatever your antibody testing results, your single blood donation is critical to saving lives. The Red Cross expects the antibody testing to continue through the Summer months. The program will be evaluated based on funding and public health need.
Ready to donate with the Red Cross?
Donors can use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, schedule online, or call 1-800-RED CROSS to make an appointment at a nearby blood drive or donation center. Walk-in appointments are sometimes available if the event isn’t full, so it never hurts to ask if you see one.
We encourage you to use the app or website, as it’s an easy way to see appointment details, health information, and complete your RapidPass (which will allow you to complete part of your pre-donation screening before you arrive). Masks are currently required to be worn when donating.
Drink plenty of water before and after your donation, and don’t donate on an empty (or overly full) stomach. If your iron levels tend to be on the low side like mine, try to consume plenty of iron rich foods (such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans, spinach, iron-fortified cereals or raisins) for at least a week before your donation. Wear a short sleeved shirt or a shirt that can be rolled up above your elbow. When it’s cold, I usually wear a short sleeved shirt under a jacket or cardigan so I can take out one arm for donation. If you’re nervous about the donation, take a friend and/or let the Red Cross employee or volunteer know so they can help you through the process. Listen to music or scroll on your phone with your other hand to distract yourself. The actual donation part is usually less than 15 minutes (and as few as 3-4 minutes). A few minutes of unpleasantness is worth the opportunity to save a life!
You will be advised to avoid alcohol, strenuous exercise or lifting heavy objects for the rest of the day after donation, so plan your donation accordingly. Some people feel slightly tired or occasionally dizzy for a day or two after donation, but many are able to resume normal activities.
Types of Donations
Certain types of donations to the Red Cross of more beneficial depending on your blood type. All blood types are encouraged to donate whole blood. If you are unsure of your blood type, a whole blood donation is the best choice (and you’ll find out your blood type after donation). Red more about types of donation.
If you blood is found to be ineligible for future donations, due to health or disease, you will be notified. I found that I’m ineligible to donate platelets due to HLA antibodies found in my platelet donation. HLA antibodies are commonly formed in women during pregnancy, after receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant. This antibody is not harmful to me or indicative of a health issue, but would be harmful to certain recipients. I’m eligible to continue whole blood and power red donations, which are ideal for my blood type.
Whole Blood Donation: Blood is taken and used in its original form. It can be separated into its specific components of red cells, plasma and platelets depending on recipient needs. Whole blood is frequently given to trauma patients and people undergoing surgery. Allow 1 hour for donation; though I am usually done in 20-30 minutes if RapidPass is completed in advance.
Ideal for all blood types
Requirements: 56 days since last donation, good health and feeling well, 16 years or older (most states), must weigh at least 110 lbs.
Power Red Donation: This donation is to collect red cells only. During a Power Red donation, an automated process separate your red blood cells, and returns your plasma and platelets to you. You will donate more red cells that can provide more impact to others. Red cells from a Power Red donation are typically given to trauma patients, newborns and emergency transfusions during birth, people with sickle cell anemia, and anyone suffering blood loss. Allow 1.5 hours for a Power Red Donation, but you may be done is as little as 1 hour.
Ideal blood types: O positive, O negative, A negative, and B negative
Requirements: 112 days since last donation (up to 3 times/yr), good health and feeling well. Male donors must be at least 17 years old, at least 5’1″ tall and weigh at least 130 lbs. Female donors must be at least 19 years old, at least 5’5″ tall and weigh at least 150 lbs
Platelet Donation: In a platelet donation, an apheresis machine collects your platelets and some plasma, returning red cells and most of the plasma back to you. Platelets are most often used by cancer patients and others facing life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Platelets are collected at Red Cross donation centers only. Donation takes from 2.5-3 hours, and the process is significantly different than a regular blood donation, and eligibility is different.
Ideal blood types: A positive, A negative, B positive, O positive, AB positive and AB negative.
Requirements: 7 days since last donation (up to 24 times/yr), good health and feeling well, 17 years old (in most states), you must weigh at least 110 lbs
Plasma Donation: With this AB Elite donation, plasma is collected and separated through an automated process. Red blood cells and platelets are returned to your body. Plasma is used to treat patients in emergency situations to help stop bleeding. AB Elite maximizes your donation and takes just a few minutes longer than donating blood. Plasma is collected at select Red Cross donation.
Ideal blood types: AB positive, AB negative.
Requirements: 28 days since last donation (up to 13 times/yr), good health and feeling well, 17 years old (in most states), you must weigh at least 110 lbs
About Antibody Tests
An antibody test screens for antibodies in your blood, which are formed when fighting an infection. An antibody test does not assess whether you are currently fighting an infection. It can take up to 14 days after a virus for antibodies to be detected. The COVID-19 antibody test may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies, regardless of whether they developed symptoms.
Note: antibody tests are not 100% accurate, so the test is considered informational only. It is unknown how long positive antibodies for COVID-19 will provide immunity from reinfection, or if they even provide immunity.
Other options for Antibody Testing
We recognize that not every person is eligible to donate blood, so this opportunity isn’t available to all. Other options for antibody testing is primary physicians, select urgent care locations, and LabCorp’s $10 COVID-19 IgG antibody test. See LabCorp details here.