Donating blood helps save lives, and regular donors can help meet vital blood needs.
Several factors — such as medication, health conditions, and travel — affect how often people can donate blood.
This article looks at how often a person can donate blood and when they may need to wait before donating.
How regularly a person donates blood will depend on the type of donation they are providing. This is because different components of the blood replenish at different rates.
- Whole blood donation: This donation type provides all components of the blood, including red and white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. People can provide this type of donation once every 56 days.
- Double red cell donation: This donation collects two units of red blood cells. Donors can give this type of donation every 112 days, up to three times per year.
- Platelet donation: People can donate platelets every 7 days, up to 24 times per year.
- Plasma donation: People can donate plasma every 28 days, up to 13 times per year.
If a person is taking certain medications, they may have to wait before they can give certain types of blood donation.
According to the American Red Cross, some medications that affect blood donation include:
- Aspirin: People may need to wait 2 days after the last dose before providing a platelet donation.
- Antibiotics: People may not be able to give blood if they are taking antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection. This is to lower the risk of passing it on. People may be able to give blood on the day of their last dose or 10 days after a final antibiotic injection.
- Bovine insulin: If a person has used bovine insulin since 1980 to treat diabetes, they will not be able to give blood. This insulin is no longer available in the United States.
- Isotretinoin or finasteride: People will need to wait 1 month after the final dose before donating blood.
- Dutasteride: People will need to wait 6 months after the last dose before donating blood.
- Blood thinners: People will need to wait 2–7 days after the last dose before giving blood, depending on the type of blood thinner they took.
- Human pituitary-derived growth hormone: People taking this will not be able to give blood at any time.
- Thalidomide: People will need to wait 1 month after taking this medication before giving blood.
- Mycophenolate mofetil: People will need to wait 6 weeks before they can donate.
- Acitretin: People will need to wait 3 years before giving blood.
- Etretinate: People who take this medication will not be able to give blood at any time.
- Leflunomide, teriflunomide,vismodegib, or sonidegib: People will need to wait 2 years to donate blood after taking any of these drugs.
- Hepatitis B immune globulin: People will need to wait 12 months after exposure to hepatitis B to donate blood.
People may be able to give whole blood donations while taking certain medications, but they will need to wait before giving platelet donations. These medications include:
People may have to wait to give blood if they have recently had certain vaccinations. These vaccinations include:
- Zostavax: A person will need to wait 4 weeks.
- Measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox vaccines: A person will need to wait 4 weeks.
- Red measles, polio, and yellow fever vaccines: A person will need to wait 2 weeks.
- Hepatitis B immunization: A person will need to wait 21 days, as long as they have no exposure to hepatitis B during that time.
- Smallpox vaccine: A person will need to wait 8 weeks.
Certain medical conditions affect if and how often people can give blood. This is to minimize the risk of passing on an infection to the person receiving the blood and the potential risk to the donor.
Medical conditions that can affect blood donation include:
- Blood clotting disorders: People will not be able to donate, as they may experience excessive bleeding.
- Asthma: People are able to donate if they have no symptoms on the day.
- High blood pressure: People are able to donate if their systolic blood pressure is below 180 and their diastolic pressure is below 100.
- Low blood pressure: People are able to donate if they feel well and their systolic blood pressure is at least 90 and their diastolic pressure is at least 50.
- Cancer: People who have had blood cancer are not able to donate. People who have had successful treatment of other cancers can donate 12 months after treatment.
- Heart disease: People will need to wait 6 months to donate after experiencing any heart-related issues. Some may not be able to donate at all.
- Hemochromatosis: People with this condition will not be able to donate blood.
- Hepatitis or jaundice: People with any symptoms of hepatitis or unexplained jaundice will not be able to give blood.
- HIV or AIDS: If a person has AIDS, has ever had a positive HIV test, or is at risk of HIV, they will not be able to donate.
- Sickle cell disease: People with sickle cell trait are able to donate, but those with sickle cell disease will not be able to.
If a person has had any exposure to hepatitis, they will have to wait before giving blood. People who have used intravenous nonprescription drugs are also unable to donate. This is because of the potential hepatitis or HIV risk.
Certain sexually transmitted infections can also affect when people are able to give blood. People who have had treatment for syphilis or gonorrhea will need to wait 3 months after treatment before donating.
People may also have to wait to donate blood if they feel unwell, have a fever, or have any symptoms of an infection.
This includes having a cold with a cough that produces phlegm or allergies that make it difficult to breathe through the mouth.
Pregnant women are also unable to donate blood and will have to wait 6 weeks after giving birth before doing so.
People will also need sufficient iron levels to give blood. Before giving blood, a person will undergo a test for hemoglobin, which is a protein in the body that contains iron. Iron is an important mineral, as it helps replenish red blood cells after donation.
If a person does not have the required hemoglobin levels, they may have to wait until their iron levels increase before donating.
Tattoos and piercings
If a person has a tattoo or piercing, it may affect when they can donate blood due to the related risk of hepatitis.
To be eligible to donate blood with a tattoo, people will need to make sure that they got their tattoo from a state-regulated tattoo facility.
The tattoo artist needs to have used sterile needles and fresh ink. If a tattoo meets these criteria, the person can donate blood right after they get it.
People with piercings can donate blood as long as the instruments the piercer used were single-use and disposable. If the piercer used reusable equipment or the person is unsure of what they used, they will need to wait 3 months before donating blood.
Traveling to other countries also affects when a person can give blood. If a person has traveled to or lived in a country that has a risk of malaria, they will have to wait before giving blood.
According to the American Red Cross, the time frames are as follows:
- If a person has received treatment for malaria, they will need to wait 3 years.
- If a person is returning from a country at risk of malaria, they will need to wait 3 months.
- If a person has lived in a country at risk of malaria for over 5 years, they will need to wait 3 years.
- If a person has traveled to an at-risk country and has not lived for 3 consecutive years in a country not at risk of malaria, they will need to wait 3 additional years.
If a person has traveled outside of the U.S. or Canada, the staff at the blood center will review the details to check that they can give blood.
By donating blood, people can help save lives. However, people need to be aware of certain factors that can affect how often they can give blood.
Before giving blood, a person will need to fill out a form providing certain details, such as their medical history. This ensures that the blood people donate is safe and can effectively help others.
In some cases, a person may need to wait a certain amount of time before they are able to give blood. People will also need to leave some time between donations, depending on the type of donation they choose.