Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) does not prevent a person from donating blood, as long as they are asymptomatic. Once the disease progresses and a person requires medication to manage the symptoms, they will not be able to give blood.

COPD refers to a group of diseases that cause breathing-related problems, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Doctors have diagnosed almost 15.7 million people in the United States with COPD. It was the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2018.

Many people may have COPD and be asymptomatic or have symptoms that do not lead to a diagnosis. Research suggests that more than 50% of adults with low pulmonary function are unaware that they have COPD, which means that the number of cases could be higher than reported.

A person with COPD cannot be a blood donor if they are experiencing symptoms.

In this article, we look at COPD and donating blood. We also examine what else disqualifies a person from donating and explain how suitable candidates can donate.

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According to the American Red Cross Blood Services, most people with chronic illnesses can donate blood as long as their condition is under control, they feel well, and they meet the other requirements of donation.

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center advises that blood services will accept blood from a person with COPD, as long as they are asymptomatic.

If a person has COPD symptoms, they will be unable to donate blood. In the early stages of COPD, a person may have no or mild symptoms. However, over time, the symptoms can become severe and may include:

Certain lung conditions may prevent a person from being able to donate blood. These include:

  • Asthma: People with asthma can donate blood as long as they are not having trouble breathing at the time of donation and otherwise feel well. However, people with symptomatic asthma who experience limitations in their daily activities cannot donate.
  • Cold or flu: People with a cold or the flu cannot donate blood at the time of illness. They should wait until they have recovered from the illness.
  • Tuberculosis (TB): A person who has active TB or is receiving treatment for TB cannot donate blood. If a person has latent tuberculosis — meaning that TB bacteria live in the body but do not make the person unwell and cannot spread to others — they may be able to donate as long as they are not taking antibiotics. People must wait until they have completed treatment for TB before donating blood.
  • Pneumonia: Although having pneumonia means that a person cannot donate blood, they will be able to once they have completed treatment and are well.

Other conditions that make a person ineligible

Various conditions prevent a person from being eligible to donate blood. These include:

  • Bleeding conditions: If a person’s blood does not clot normally, they should not donate, as they may experience excessive bleeding at the needle site. People who take blood thinning medication such as warfarin also should not donate blood.
  • Some cancers: A person is ineligible to donate blood if they have blood cancer, such as:
  • Jaundice and hepatitis: A person with symptoms of hepatitis or jaundice is not eligible to donate blood. If a person has ever tested positive for hepatitis B or hepatitis C, they will not be able to donate.
  • Ebola virus: A person who has or has ever had Ebola is not a candidate for blood donation.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): If a person has gonorrhea or syphilis, they will have to wait until 3 months after they have completed treatment to donate blood.
  • HIV: A person who has tested positive for HIV is not eligible to donate blood.

Certain additional factors may also mean that a person is not eligible to donate blood. These include:

  • Blood transfusion: People may need to wait at least 3 months after they have received a blood transfusion from another person in the U.S. before donating blood.
  • Age: A person cannot donate blood if they are younger than 17 years.
  • IV drug use: People who have used injectable drugs that a doctor did not prescribe must wait 3 months before donating blood.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant people cannot donate blood.
  • Some medications: Medications rarely disqualify someone from donating blood. However, a person may have to wait a certain period after taking the last dose of certain medications before they can donate blood. These medications include:

Doctors may defer men who have sex with men (MSM) for blood donation. They will evaluate them for reinstatement, which can take some time. First-time MSM donors can donate blood if they have not had sex with a man in more than 3 months.

Eligibility for blood donation varies by location but generally requires:

  • being in good health at the time of donation
  • being 17 years or older
  • weighing at least 110 pounds

It takes about 1 hour to donate blood. Blood donation steps include:

Before donating:

  • A person can find blood donation services by searching online for nearby centers or using an online locator.
  • They should then make an appointment on a day that does not involve intensive physical activity.
  • They will need to eat an iron-rich meal and drink at least 2 glasses of water before donating.

During a visit:

  • The person will need to show identification upon arrival.
  • They will answer questions about their health and travel, as these factors may affect donation eligibility.
  • Doctors will ask the person about their health history and the places they have traveled.
  • The staff will measure the person’s:
  • The donor will sit while a staff member draws blood, which takes about 8–10 minutes per pint.

After donating, the person will relax for a few minutes and have a snack and beverage. They should also avoid intensive exercise for the rest of the day.

A person with COPD can donate blood, providing their condition is controlled and they do not have symptoms or feel ill at the time of donation.

Some illnesses, such as viral hepatitis, HIV and AIDS, and blood cancer, prevent people from donating blood. Sometimes, certain conditions cause a delay in donation, and a person will have to wait until after treatment to donate blood.

Generally, anyone with a good health status who is older than 17 years and weighs at least 110 pounds can donate blood.