Are you ready to donate blood but wondering “can I donate blood?” Maybe you don’t know what the blood donation requirements are. Or you’ve tried to donate blood, were deferred, and are unsure if you can try again.
The good news is most people can donate blood. There are a few basic blood donation requirements, and thanks to recent updates to eligibility criteria, the list of who can donate blood is longer than ever. So, even if you’ve been deferred in the past, chances are good you can start donating blood again.
Yes, you can
You may be surprised to hear that about 62% of the U.S. population can donate blood. That means they don’t have any deferrals and meet the basic blood donation requirements: age 16 or older; weigh at least 110 pounds; and are in good health and feeling well on the day they donate.
We give you a mini-physical on the day of your appointment to make sure you don’t have a fever, your blood pressure is good and your hemoglobin is high enough to safely donate. These quick tests are to ensure you have a safe and pleasant donation experience. If anything is off, you may be deferred from donating that day, but you can always come back and try again.
What is a deferral, exactly?
A blood donation deferral means you are unable to donate blood at a particular point in time. You may get deferred because you don’t meet one or more of the requirements to donate blood, are under the weather when you come to donate, traveled to certain areas, or because of a health condition or medication you take.
But most of these deferrals are temporary. Your physical and medical conditions can change, of course. And traveling to malaria-risk areas results in only a three-month deferral. After that time frame, you are eligible to donate.
Donation requirements can change, too
Over the years, the FDA, which regulates blood donation to maintain a safe blood supply, has updated the eligibility requirements to donate blood. Having a tattoo used to be a no-no, but now in most cases you can donate right after getting one (if you get one at an unregulated tattoo parlor, you have to wait three months to donate blood).
Recently, the FDA lifted a longtime ban on donations from people who spent time in the U.K. or other parts of Europe and could have been exposed to mad cow disease.
And in a significant change announced this summer, the FDA approved the Individual Donor Assessment, which evaluates blood donor eligibility regardless of gender or sexual orientation while maintaining the safety of the blood supply.
Again, who can donate blood?
In summary, the answer to your question of who can donate blood is – most people! Why not give it a try? If you get deferred or were told you couldn’t donate blood in the past, please try again. Circumstances change, and blood donations are always needed.