The overwhelming need for blood donation never subsides in the United States. And yet, only about 3% of the 37% of age-eligible donors in the U.S. donate blood on an annual basis. Essential for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries, you can save someone’s life by donating whole blood, red cells, platelets, or plasma. One donation can potentially save up to three lives. Thinking about donating blood? Check out the latest eligibility requirements before scheduling an appointment to donate.
Basic eligibility requirements
Blood donors must:
- Be in good health
- Weigh at least 110 pounds
- Be at least 16 years old in most states
People are eligible to donate whole blood every 56 days, which equates to six times per year or every eight weeks.
You may be restricted from giving blood if: You have the cold, flu or any other acute illness that results in a fever. You should call to cancel your appointment if you don’t feel well on the day of your donation. Call and reschedule 24 hours after your symptoms have passed. Your iron (hemoglobin) levels are too low. The American Red Cross routinely checks hemoglobin levels before each blood and platelet donation. If those levels are too low, you will be asked to wait before donating. You’ve recently traveled outside the U.S. and exposed yourself to certain diseases. Individuals who have lived in or traveled to certain countries may be unable to donate blood. This includes areas with a high rate of malaria or history of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), commonly known as “mad cow disease.” A person may also be declined if diagnosed with Hepatitis B or C, AIDS, HIV, hemochromatosis, sickle cell disease, low iron, tuberculosis or certain blood cancers and blood infections, like malaria. For a complete list of restrictions, check the American Red Cross’ eligibility criteria. Most medications will not disqualify you from donating blood but may require a waiting period after your final dose. View the American Red Cross’ full list of medication deferrals and information here. When it comes time to donate, bring a list of your current prescriptions.
Can I donate blood if I’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19?
It is safe to donate blood, plasma, or platelets after receiving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. You can donate blood if you have received a vaccine authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer or Moderna. But you must be free of the fever or any symptoms at the time of your donation. In most cases, there is no deferral time for individuals who have received the vaccine. You will need to provide the manufacturer name of your COVID-19 vaccine when you come to donate.
Can I donate blood if I have had COVID-19 in the past?
According to the FDA, individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspected of having COVID-19 – and those who were symptomatic of the disease – should refrain from donating blood for at least 14 days after a complete resolution of symptoms.
Preparing for a donation and recovering after I’m done
You should start by getting plenty of sleep the night before donating. Eat a healthy meal high in vitamin C and iron and low in fat content an hour prior to donating. Stay hydrated by drinking 16 ounces of water prior to the appointment. This will make it easier to find a vein and help with post-donation recovery. Wear a short-sleeved shirt or one that can be easily rolled up before the procedure. After giving blood, some people may experience mild side effects such as dizziness, nausea, and light bleeding at the site of withdrawal. Take the following steps to ensure a safe and successful recovery:
- Avoid alcohol for the next 24 hours
- Call your blood bank or clinic if you feel sick within 24 hours of giving blood
- Don’t take aspirin or ibuprofen for up to 48 hours after donating
- Drink an additional 32 ounces of water
- Eat iron-rich foods over the next few days
- Refrain from heavy lifting or strenuous activity the day of donation
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