The dangers of giving plasma

There are safer ways to make some cash

One plasma donation can permanently damage your body

It’s no secret that most college kids are strapped for cash. Most students have to choose between doing well academically, having a job or having a social life. So, when the opportunity presents itself to donate plasma, thus providing a service to others in need, and making cash in the process, who would dare to turn it down?

However, despite how easy the transaction seems, get pricked, sit for a bit and get paid, the consequences of donating plasma may not be worth the couple hundred bucks you get in the process. Plasma donations are rarely as good-willed as they’re made to seem. 

For those who don’t know, giving plasma involves inserting a needle into the vein. Blood is then extracted from the body where the plasma is separated out of the blood. Then the plasma-less blood is added back into the body with saline as an additive.

There are often positive results that come as a result of donating plasma. According to Healthline, donating plasma can be beneficial to those individuals with immune system, bleeding, or respiratory conditions. However, more often than not, large plasma donation centers use the plasma they possess for for-profit medical treatments.

As the Atlantic reported, the U.S. produces 70 percent of all plasma worldwide. This percentage has meant huge products for American companies, in the last ten years, plasma has gone from a four billion dollar industry to an eleven billion dollar one.

Is it just that far more Americans donate plasma than other countries? Not quite. In reality, the regulations put on plasma donation centers are far more lax in the U.S. than overseas.

As Dr. Lucy Reynolds, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropic Medicine stated, “I call it a grubby business because they knowingly endanger the health of donors in the U.S. by harvesting them twice a week, while in every other place in the world you’re only allowed to donate fortnightly,” donating plasma is really not as safe as it seems.

What exactly are the symptoms related to donating plasma? The most common side-effects, according to the National Institute of Health, include dehydration and fatigue. In many cases individuals will have bruising around the injection site.

However, there are other more serious or long-term side-effects associated with the extraction. A rarer side-effect, called a citrate reaction, can even be deadly.

Citrate reactions occur as a result of anticoagulants being mixed in the blood to prevent clotting. During this process the machine retains most of the citrate, but some will return into your bloodstream. As the citrate and calcium bind together, it can cause numbness, vibrations, rapid or slow pulse and shortness of breath. If this is left untreated it can lead to spasms, shock and cardiac arrest.

While this reaction is rare, it does happen and most people who donate don’t know it is even in the realm of possibility. Additionally, people often damage their veins in the process of donating plasma to the point where they have difficulty getting I.Vs in later life.

NDSU students who frequent Biolife often live their lives waiting for the next window when they can donate. The effects from this lifestyle can be damaging. An example via a student, who wished to remain anonymous, explained: “My ex-boyfriend used to donate plasma regularly. Every time we were having intimate relations after he donated, he would always pass out. Even though it was funny, that can’t be normal.”

Even if college kids are strapped, there are surely better ways than damaging your body and seriously risking your health to earn some cash. For example: write for the newspaper (shameless plug). Or really, just consider any other profession that doesn’t involve getting holes put in your body by individuals who require no medical training.

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