Many people mistakenly believe that having a tattoo means it is not possible to donate blood.

Every 2 seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, but supplies are low due to COVID-19. To find out more about blood donation and how you can help, please visit our dedicated hub.

The truth is that most people with tattoos can donate blood, as long as they do not have certain diseases.

Sometimes, a person may need to wait up to 12 months after getting a tattoo before donating blood. This is to ensure that they have not developed a disease as a result of getting the tattoo.

In this article, learn more about blood donation rules and how long to wait after getting a tattoo.

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When necessary, a person may need to wait 12 months after getting a tattoo to give blood.

Most people with tattoos can donate blood, as long as they do not have risk factors that prohibit or limit blood donation.

People who get tattoos in states with regulated facilities that do not reuse ink can give blood right away.

If a person gets their tattoo in a state that does not license tattoo facilities, however, they must wait 12 months to ensure that they did not develop a contagious disease from the tattoo procedure.

The following states do not license their tattoo facilities:

  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

People who get tattoos in prison, those who apply their own tattoos, and individuals who get tattoos in states with regulations but from unregulated artists or facilities must also wait before donating blood.

The American Red Cross require a 12-month waiting period after receiving a tattoo in an unregulated facility before a person can donate blood. This is due to the risk of hepatitis.

Hepatitis is a type of liver inflammation. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are highly contagious and potentially deadly, especially for people with serious health issues.

A person can contract these forms of hepatitis after coming into contact with blood that contains it. This may occur during or as a result of blood donation.

It can take up to 6 months for a person to develop symptoms of hepatitis after exposure.

This waiting period of 12 months is longer than the hepatitis incubation period, so it ensures that a person with the disease does not donate blood and inadvertently transmit the virus to someone else.

People who get tattoos in regulated and licensed facilities do not need to wait to give blood.

The limitations on who can donate blood and when are in place to help protect recipients from potentially dangerous diseases.

People who need blood transfusions may already be very sick, and contracting a contagious disease could kill them.

Regulations also protect blood donors. Some people, such as those with anemia, could experience adverse symptoms from donating blood.

Some limitations on donating blood in the United States include:

  • Infections. People with symptoms of an infection should seek treatment for the infection before donating blood.
  • Bleeding disorder. People with certain bleeding disorders may not be able to safely donate blood.
  • Blood transfusion. People who have had a blood transfusion must wait a year before donating blood.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. People with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or a similar condition cannot donate blood.
  • Men who have sex with men. Men who have sex with men — regardless of their sexual orientation or identity — must wait 12 months after their last sexual encounter before donating blood. The American Red Cross are campaigning for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce this time to 3 months.
  • Ebola virus. People who have ever had ebola cannot donate blood.
  • Hepatitis. People who have or who have ever had hepatitis B or C cannot donate blood. People who live or have sex with a person who has hepatitis must wait 12 months before donating.
  • HIV. People with HIV or AIDS, and those who have ever had a positive HIV test, should not donate blood. People at high risk of HIV should discuss their risk with the blood donation center’s health historian to determine whether or not they can donate blood.
  • Intravenous (IV) drug use. People who have ever used recreational IV drugs cannot donate blood.
  • Travel. People who have traveled to countries where certain diseases are prevalent may also have to wait to donate blood. For example, following travel to a high risk country for malaria, a person must wait 12 months before donating blood.
  • Organ and tissue transplants. Organ recipients must wait a year before donating blood.
  • Piercings. It is safe to donate blood after getting a piercing, as long as the needles were sterile and the piercing did not involve a piercing gun. If the piercer used a gun or the instruments were not sterile, wait 12 months.
  • Sexually transmitted infections. People with gonorrhea or syphilis must wait 12 months after treatment to donate blood. Chlamydia, herpes, human papillomavirus, and genital warts do not prohibit donation.
  • Sickle cell disease. People with sickle cell disease cannot donate blood, but those with sickle cell trait may.
  • Tuberculosis. People with active tuberculosis should not donate blood until the infection is gone.
  • Zika virus. A person should wait 120 days after the symptoms of Zika disappear to donate blood.

Donating blood can save many lives. Even young and otherwise healthy people may need blood after hemorrhages related to sudden falls, childbirth, or vehicle accidents.

In the U.S., there is a person who needs blood every 3 seconds, necessitating around 32,000 pints of blood each day. An estimated 4.5 million people in the U.S. would die annually without blood transfusions, so hospitals need a steady supply.

However, less than 38% of the U.S. population meet blood donation eligibility requirements at any given time. Do not rely on someone else, since most people cannot donate.

Donating blood saves lives. Even with a recent tattoo, many people can still donate blood.

Some states have different regulations and may require that a person wait 12 months before donating.

Consult the local American Red Cross for information about upcoming blood drives.