Frequently asked questions about blood donation

Giving blood is not as simple as Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula – in which four different people could participate in the same transfusion regardless of blood type – made it out to be. Thus, Discount Medical Supplies presents you with these frequently asked questions about blood donation.

Frequently asked questions about blood donation

1.       What is blood donation?

This is a process in which a donor voluntarily gives blood to be given to some of the millions of people who need blood transfusions every year.

2.       What are the types of blood donation?

The most common type of blood donation occurs when about a pint of whole blood is drawn from the donor and separated into red cells, plasma, and platelets. These three elements can be also collected separately during a process called apheresis in which the rest of the blood is returned to the donor.

3.       What are platelets?

Platelets are an essential part of cancer and organ transplant treatments, and many surgical procedures because they help prevent massive blood loss.

4.       Is blood donation safe?

New, sterile, disposable equipment is used with each donor to eliminate the risk of transmitting a bloodborne disease.

5.       How much blood can you donate?

A healthy adult can usually give a pint of blood without risking his or her health. The body replaces the lost fluids within 24 hours, and the lost red blood cells within a few weeks.

6.       What are the requisites for giving blood?

·         Being in good health.

·         Being at least 17 years of age – though some states allow 16-year-olds to donate with parental permission.

·         Weighing at least 110 lbs.

·         The requirements are slightly different for double red cell donation. (see below).

7.       What are the requisites for donating red blood cells?

·         Being healthy and feeling well.

·         Being at least 17 years old in most states.

·         Being at least 5’1” (at least 5’5” for women).

·         Weighing at least 130 lbs. (at least 150 lbs. for women).

8.       How can you prepare for donating blood?

·         Keep a healthy blood iron level.

·         Get plenty of sleep the night before.

·         Eat a healthy meal beforehand.

·         Avoid fatty foods like hamburgers, fries, or ice cream.

·         Drink an extra 16oz of water prior to the donation, as well as other fluids.

·         Do not take aspirin two days before giving blood if you’re a platelet donor.

·         Bring your donor card, driver’s license or two other forms of ID.

·         Wear clothing with sleeves that can be raised above your elbow.

9.       Who should not give blood?

·         Anyone who has ever used injection drugs not prescribed by a doctor, such as illegal injection drugs or steroids.

·         Men who have had sexual contact with other men since 1977.

·         Anyone who has ever received clotting factor concentrates.

·         Anyone with a positive test for HIV.

·         Anyone who has exchanged sex for money or drugs.

·         Anyone who has had hepatitis after his/her 11th birthday.

·         Anyone who has had babesiosis or Chagas’ disease.

·         Anyone who has taken etretinate (Tegison) for psoriasis.

·         Anyone who has risk factors for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) or who has a blood relative with CJD.

·         Anyone who spent 3 months or more in the United Kingdom from 1980-1996.

·         Anyone who received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom or France from 1980 to the present day.

·         Anyone who has spent five years in Europe from 1980 to the present day.

10.   What is a deferral?

This occurs when you’re temporarily or permanently not eligible to give blood. Common reasons for referral include low hemoglobin/hematocrit; symptoms of cold, flu, and other illnesses; travel to certain countries; and certain medications and conditions.

11.   Which conditions/procedures affect eligibility?

Conditions in which blood does not clot normally.

Leukemia or lymphoma, including Hodgkin’s Disease and other cancers of the blood.

Dura mater (brain covering) transplant or human pituitary growth hormone.


 Hepatitis caused by a virus, or unexplained jaundice since age 11.

Hepatitis B or hepatitis C at any age even if you were never sick or jaundiced from the infection.


At least one positive HIV test.

Sickle cell.

Active tuberculosis.


Persons who have been detained or incarcerated in a facility for more than 72 consecutive hours are deferred for 12 months from the date of last occurrence.

12.   Which conditions/procedures do not affect eligibility?


Acceptable as long as you feel well, have no fever, and have no problems breathing through your mouth.


Acceptable as long as you are not having difficulty breathing at the time of donation and you otherwise feel well.

High Blood Pressure

Acceptable as long as your blood pressure is below 180 systolic and below 100 diastolic at the time of donation.

Low Blood Pressure

Acceptable as long as you feel well, and your blood pressure is at least 80/50.


Types of cancer other than leukemia or lymphoma, including Hodgkin’s Disease and other cancers of the blood  are acceptable if treatment has been successfully completed over 12 months ago and there has been no recurrence in that time. Precancerous conditions of the uterine cervix do not disqualify you from donation if the abnormality has been treated successfully.

Most chronic illnesses

Acceptable as long as you feel well, the condition is under control, and you meet all other requirements.


Diabetics who are well controlled on insulin or oral medications are eligible.

Heart Disease

Acceptable as long as you have been medically evaluated and treated, have had no heart related symptoms in the past 6 months have no limitations or restrictions on your normal daily activities.


You may give blood as long as your pulse is between 50-100 beats per minute with no more than a small number of irregular beats, and you meet other heart disease criteria. 

Heart Murmur

Acceptable as long as you have been medically evaluated and treated and have not had symptoms in the last 6 months, and have no restrictions on normal daily activities.

Hemoglobin, Hematocrit, Blood Count

Acceptable if you have a hemoglobin at or above 12.5 g/dL. Separate requirements for hemoglobin level apply for double red cell donations.

Jaundice or hepatitis caused by something other than a viral infection.


Wait until the infection has resolved completely before giving blood.

Sickle Cell

Acceptable if you have sickle cell trait.


Dental Procedures and Oral Surgery

Acceptable as long as there is no infection present.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Piercing (ears, body), Electrolysis

Acceptable as long as the instruments used were sterile or single-use equipment.


acceptable if the tattoo was applied by a state-regulated entity using sterile needles and ink that is not reused. 

Sexually Transmitted Disease

Acceptable if it has been more than 12 months since you completed treatment for syphilis or gonorrhea.

Chlamydia, venereal warts, or genital herpes are not a cause for deferral if you are feeling healthy and well and meet all other requirements.


Medications will seldom disqualify you as a donor. Eligibility will be based on the reason the medication was prescribed. As long as the condition is under control and you are healthy, donation is usually permitted.

13.   What happens before donating blood?

You will be asked to fill out a confidential medical history including direct questions about behaviors known to involve an increased risk of bloodborne infections (see above). Additionally, a brief physical examination, including blood pressure, pulse and temperature will be performed, as well as a blood sample collected from a finger prick to gauge the oxygen-carrying component of your blood.

14.   What happens during the procedure?

·         You lie or sit in a reclining chair with arm extended on an armrest.

·         A blood pressure cuff or tourniquet is placed around your upper arm to fill your veins with more blood, making the veins easier to see and insert the needle into, and also helping to fill the blood bag more quickly.

·         The skin on the inside of your elbow is cleaned.

·         A new, sterile needle is inserted into a vein in your arm.

·         This needle is attached to a thin, plastic tube and a blood bag.

·         You will be asked to tighten your fist several times to help the blood flow from the vein. Blood is first collected into tubes for testing. When these have been collected, the bag is filled with about a pint of blood.

·         The needle is in place for about 10 minutes. When the bag has been filled, the needle is removed, a small bandage is placed on the needle site and a dressing is wrapped around your arm.

·         Another method of donating blood is known as apheresis.

·         During apheresis, blood is drawn from one arm and pumped through a machine that separates the platelets, plasma, and/or red blood cells. The rest of the blood is then returned through a vein in the other arm. This process allows more of a single component to be donated, but it takes longer than standard blood donation.

15.   What happens after giving blood?

·         You sit in an observation area to rest and eat a light snack.

·         You are free to go after 15 minutes.

You should also do the following:

  • Drink extra fluids for the couple of days.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for the next 5 hours.
  • If you experience lightheadedness, lie down with feet up until the feeling passes.
  • Keep the bandage on your arm for at least 4-5 hours.
  • If you bleed after removing the bandage, apply pressure on the site and raise your arm for 3-5 minutes.
  • If bleeding or bruising occurs under the skin, apply a cold pack to the area periodically during the first 24 hours.
  • If your arm is sore, take acetaminophen or another pain relieving medicine – provided it’s not aspirin or ibuprofen.

Call your local blood donor center if you:

  • Feel nauseated, lightheaded or dizzy after resting, eating and drinking.
  • Notice a raised bump, continued bleeding or pain at the needle-stick site when removing the bandage.
  • Feel pain or tingling down your arm, into your fingers.
  • Become sick with symptoms of a cold or flu within four days after giving blood. Bacterial infections can be transmitted by your blood to another person via transfusion, so you should let the blood donor center know if you become sick so your blood will not be used.

16.   How often can you give blood?

·         You must wait at least 8 weeks (56 days) between donations of whole blood and 16 weeks (112 days) between double red cell donations.

·         Platelet apheresis donors may give every 7 days up to 24 times per year.

·         Plasma donors may give eve3ry 28 days and up to 13 times a year. 

17.   Can you donate yourself blood?

Yes. This is called autologous donation and it may be done before surgery or a planned medical procedure. This type of donation requires a doctor’s prescription.


Related: Early symptoms of hemochromatosis (iron overload)