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Minimum weight for donating blood jumps 13 pounds at Central Texas center

Published: 10:47 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010

For those who struggle to weigh at least 110 pounds so they can donate blood at the Blood Center of Central Texas, crack open the Girl Scout cookies. Eat the whole box. The minimum weight for donating whole blood the most popular kind of donation has increased 13 pounds.

Center officials said they bumped the weight requirement to 123 pounds Jan. 12 when they started using larger collection bags that hold about 3 tablespoons more blood than the old pint-size bags. They don't want to take any chances of people getting woozy or having other reactions afterward, said Linda Printz, chief marketing officer.

For people who donate platelets, 110 pounds remains the minimum at the center.

"We were probably the last ones in the world to go to the larger bags," Printz said.

At the same time, she said, she was not aware of any other centers in Texas that increased the weight requirement after switching from 450-milliliter bags to the 500-milliliter bags.

"We're a fairly conservative bunch here," Printz said. "We won't compromise that safety factor."

At the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center in Houston, officials use the larger bags, but donors still must weigh a minimum of 110 pounds; 16-years-olds must weigh at least 122 pounds. The center is evaluating whether donors are having reactions that would require an increase in weight, but they haven't see that so far, spokeswoman Mary Richards said.

She noted that Food and Drug Administration weight guidelines have not changed.

The American Association of Blood Banks said that most centers are now using the 500-milliliter bags but that weight criteria varies.

"It's basically up to the blood center as long as they are not taking people below 110 (pounds)," association spokeswoman Jennifer Garfinkel said. The association does not have a way to track how many centers might have changed weight requirements after switching to the bigger bags.

Increasing the weight is most likely to affect teens, college students and petite women.

Milaka Falk, 42, of Oak Hill has been donating whole blood for nearly two decades and said she was "very upset" to learn of the change. She is 5 feet 2 inches tall, and her weight hovers around 113 pounds. She has an unusual type of blood — O-negative, and because it's also negative for a common virus, her blood is suitable for infants.

"I almost cried" over the news, Falk said, adding that she still intends to donate platelets.

"I understand that donor's disappointment, hugely, and it puts an added stress on the center as well," Printz said. The "baby blood" is "so precious to us."

Falk, who said the technician who took her last whole blood donation confided that she also was disqualified under the new criteria, predicted the center would lose a lot of donors. Printz said she didn't know how many were in the 110-pound-to-123-pound category but said that donations from recent high school drives were up about 5 percent.