I enjoy giving advice to others from my own personal experience—including giving blood.
Blood Donation Eligibility Requirements
For the longest time, I wanted to give blood, but was told that I would probably not be eligible (I'm a bit on the skinny side). I decided to look into the various blood donation restrictions to see what the actual eligibility requirements are for giving blood. As it happens, they are pretty simple (I've outlined them below), but it is important to check to see if you are indeed eligible for giving blood before booking an appointment and waltzing in, all revved and pulsing, as it would be a big letdown to find out that you can't help out after all.
Blood Donation Eligibility Requirements You CAN Check
There are some things that you won't know until you get to a doctor or go through the preliminary screening to give blood (those blood donation restrictions are covered below), hover there are several disqualifying factors that you can consider right away.
You are NOT eligible to donate blood if . . .
- You have cold or flu symptoms.
- You have cancer.
- You are pregnant.
- You have sickle cell disease (you're OK if you just have sickle cell trait).
- You have AIDS.
- You are engaged in ANY hypodermic drug use.
- You are younger than 17 years old (the minimum age requirement varies from state to state; in some states, you can donate blood at age 16, but not all).
- You weigh less than 110 pounds.
- You gave blood fewer than 56 days ago, platelets fewer than a week ago, plasma less then 28 days ago, or double red cells fewer than 112 days ago.
- Within the past 12 months, you have recently traveled to an area that makes you not safe for blood donations (Iraq, some countries in Western Africa, and anywhere where one might encounter malaria).
- In the 90s, you spent some time in the UK (In the comments, s.carver points out that a stint she spent in the UK during the '90s made her ineligible to give blood because of the mad cow scare).
- You are on a medication that makes you not eligible for blood donations (check the organization you wish to donate with before booking an appointment, or ask your doctor).
- Within the past 12 months, you got a tattoo in a state that does not regulate tattoo facilities.
If you want to be a double red cell donator, you are not eligible if . . .
- You are shorter than 5"1' if you're male, and shorter than 5"5' if you're female.
- You are female and weigh less than 150 pounds.
- You are male and weigh less than 130 pounds.
You will probably have noticed that some requirements vary based on state or the organization to which you are donating blood. For this reason, it never hurts to check with the organization you have in mind before heading over to make a donation.
There are also some restrictions for people who have had certain conditions within the past 12 months (for example, Syphilis), or if you're being treated for something now (e.g., Tuberculosis). Basically, if you're dealing with some sort of sickness, check with the clinic or your doctor first.
Blood Donation Restrictions You Will Only Discover Upon Initial Screening
Before you get to donate blood, you will have to go through a preliminary screening process to make sure that you are fit to give.
If you are dealing with any of the following factors, you will find that you are not eligible to give blood (at least for the time being)
- Low hemoglobin/hematocrit: This means that you've got an iron deficiency- aka anemia. If you want to avoid getting caught up in this, eat a lot of meat, green vegetables, and seafood, and consider taking iron supplements
- Your weight/height ratio doesn't work out: Even if you weigh more than 110 pounds, you might not be eligible for giving blood because you may still be too thin (someone who is short and 110 pounds will tolerate blood donations much better than someone who is really tall and 110 pounds)—since eligibility is based on a weight to height ratio, it's kind of hard to know if you'll pass until you check with a pro.
Really, so long as you've done your homework, beef up on iron, and don't get too skinny, you're set to go!
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Jeff on July 16, 2020:
I just tried to donate but wasnt allowed due to living in Spain in 86/87. According to the new May/20/20 Red Cross Eligibility info shouldn't I have been able to donate?
sangues on March 04, 2017:
I think I am a eligible but I am under 16
Miyu on July 18, 2013:
Donating blood is something I'm really passionate about.
But, naturally 5 foot and 100 lbs as a woman.
C'est la vie.
raja on November 29, 2011:
i work in a blood bank in india! its very essential for everyone to donate blood nd save lives!
Ombie on November 23, 2011:
My wife got a letter from our blood donation Centre that her blood cannot be used,She is stressed and thinks that I am wondering around. What can I do?
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on July 06, 2011:
Very true, scott33thomas! You make an important point.
Manuel Porras from Germany, Colombia, USA, Panama, Mexico, Spain on July 05, 2011:
is very important to support the donation of blood you never know if tomorrow you're going to need a trasnfucion
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 20, 2011:
Thanks SweetMarie83!! Yeah, I had not realized that there would be a difference with tattoos from state to state!
Marie Landry from Ontario, Canada on February 19, 2011:
Very interesting hub! I've been wanting to give blood for some time now but wasn't sure of the restrictions - I had heard the restriction about having a tattoo but wasn't sure about the time period. Thanks for this great info!
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 17, 2011:
Whoah! That's so crazy!! I'm SO adding this to the checklist. How fascinating!
s.carver from San Francisco on February 17, 2011:
I used to love to give blood when I was in college. I was good at it, it turned out, and I respond well to positive feedback. Anyway, the last time I tried to give blood, about a year ago during a blood drive where I got a free burger for a pint of my O-positive, I found out to my chagrin that I am not eligible!
Another condition that crosses you forever off the blood donor list, at least as far as the Red Cross is concerned, is having spent over a certain amount of time in the U.K. during those years in the mid-1990s when Mad Cow Disease raged. Spend too much time in England, and you are disqualified from giving blood.
Sad, but true.
I wonder if they let vegetarians who spent time in England during that time frame donate blood?