Questions and Answers about Coronavirus

Double red cells

Red cells carry oxygen to organs and tissue.

You can donate “just red blood cells” through an apheresis donation.

Red blood cells have a 42-day shelf life. They are received by patients having surgery, organ transplants or cancer treatment. People with life-threatening conditions often need many transfusions.

By choosing to donate double red cells, you can safely donate enough for two red cell transfusions. That means a single donation can help two patients receive lifesaving treatment.

How does it work?

During a double red cell donation a process called apheresis draws and spins the blood to separate its component parts. The machine then removes only the red cells — immediately returning the platelets and plasma back to your body. While you’re donating, you’ll receive fluid to help keep you hydrated. The entire process takes about 90-120 minutes. There are some body weight requirements for being eligible to give double reds. Usually you must also be type O, type A- or type B- to meet donation requirements.
See who can donate.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Double Red Cell Program?
    If you are blood type O, type A negative or type B negative then you may be eligible to give enough red blood cells for two transfusions in a single visit through our apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis) Double Red Cell Program. This donation results in twice as many red cells for patients and allows you more time in between appointments.
  • What are red cells?
    Red cells deliver oxygen—vital to patients with severe blood loss or sickle cell anemia. Just one apheresis donation results in twice as many red cells as a typical whole blood donation.
  • How does the process work?
    The apheresis process is simple: blood is drawn from the donor’s arm and the components are separated. Only the components being donated, in this case two units of red cells, are collected while the remaining components are safely returned to the donor.
  • How long does it take?
    Only a few minutes longer than a typical blood donation. Scheduling an appointment ensures the equipment is ready when you arrive. The entire visit, from registration to refreshments, takes about 1 hour 25 minutes. You may watch television or movies, listen to music, read or simply sit back and relax while helping save a life.
  • Are apheresis red cell donations safe?
    Yes. Each donation is closely supervised by trained staff. The amount of red cells collected does not compromise your health and the volume replacement (saline solution) helps replenish your fluids. New, sterile donation equipment (needle, tubing, collection bags) is used for each donor – it is virtually impossible to contract a disease from the process.
  • What are the requirements?
    Apheresis red cell donors must be blood type O, type A negative or type B negative and meet minimum blood volume requirements determined by height, weight and hematocrit.
  • Why do you need specific blood types?
    It takes donors of all blood types to maintain a stable community blood supply for patients. Currently we need type O, type A negative or type B negative donors to help meet the local demand for red blood cells. Donors of all blood types are needed to give apheresis platelets and whole blood. To schedule your next appointment or find out more information, please call 1-800-398-7888 or e-mail
  • How often can I donate double red cells?
    Up to three times a year! You may donate apheresis red cells once every 16 weeks or 112 days compared to every 8 weeks or 56 days for whole blood donation. Overall this means more time in between appointments and fewer visits to BloodworksNW.
  • How soon after donating red cells can I give whole blood or platelets?
    For apheresis red cell donors the waiting period in between donations is 16 weeks or 112 days before the next whole blood, platelet or two unit red cell donation.
  • Can I donate apheresis red cells at a blood drive?
    Currently this donor program is available only at our donor centers.
  • How do two unit donation count towards my Tree of Life goal? Could l get on the Tree of Life faster?
    A two unit donation counts as two donations towards your donation total and could help you reach the Tree of Life 100 unit milestone faster.
  • How can I become an apheresis red cell donor?
    For more information and appointments, call Bloodworks Northwest (800) 398-7888. You may also ask our Donor Center staff for information about open appointments.

Why does your donation matter?

An hour of your time could save three lives.

Every two seconds in the United States someone needs blood to survive. One in three people need a lifesaving transfusion during their lifetime. This need touches everyone—family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and the community.

Blood is a precious resource, but has a limited shelf life—only 5 days for platelets, and 42 days for red cells. That’s why it takes 800 donors a day to maintain the blood supply for the 90 hospitals we support in the Northwest.

You can donate at a center, or at one of our many mobile drives. Your donation helps people having surgeries or organ transplants, or receiving treatment for trauma. People often receive transfusions during treatment for cancer and bleeding disorders.

What should you expect the first time you donate?

Donating blood is a simple process and usually takes less than an hour. You’ll be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your health and travel history. Then you’ll meet a staff member for a short screening interview and quick physical examination. If you meet eligibility requirements, we’ll discuss the blood donation that best matches your blood type and current local needs. For the most common donation of whole blood the actual donation time is only about 5 to 10 minutes.

Most people feel fine after giving blood. But we want you to feel great, so eat a healthy meal within four hours before your donation. Be sure to stay hydrated before and after donation with non-caffeinated fluids. In the days after your donation, it is good to add iron-rich foods like meat, spinach and beans to your diet.

How does the process work?

After you fill out the health history and meet with a staff member you’ll be advised about donation options for your blood type—whole blood, platelets, red cells or plasma. Then you can sit back and relax as we draw blood from your arm. Whole blood donations take about 10 minutes, while the process for giving platelets, red cells or plasma takes longer. After you’ve donated, you’ll be served a refreshment and snack, and be on your way.

Are you eligible to be a blood donor?

To donate you must be:

  • in Washington: age 18 or older (age 16, with parental consent)
  • in Oregon, age 16 or older
  • Weigh at least 110 lbs
  • General good health


Questions about eligibility

Some health conditions or medications may temporarily or permanently prevent people from donating blood. Refer to the chart below.

If you still have any questions about your eligibility and want to discuss it further, please contact us:


or call 1-800-366-2831, ext. 2543

Your gift of blood, time or money saves lives.