How to Tell If You’re Eligible to Donate Blood

Especially in the wake of major tragedies, the need for blood donations is constant. If you’re able, you should consider donating blood to those in need. It’s important to understand why you might not be able to donate, so that you can step up to help in other ways. These are some of the requirements and restrictions the American Red Cross have in place for potential donors in the U.S., and why they matter.

You must be in ‘good health’

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This requirement isn’t always easy to understand. | iStock.com

There isn’t a detailed checklist to help you interpret exactly what this means — it could be different for everyone. Red Cross says being “in good health” means you’re both feeling well and can perform normal daily tasks. It also means that, if you have a chronic condition, you’re being treated and have that condition and its symptoms under control. If you have diabetes, for example, you can donate blood as long as your blood sugar is stable.

You must be at least 17 years old

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These guidelines may vary by state. | NanoStockk/iStock/Getty Images

Age is another factor to consider when checking your eligibility. At 17, you are eligible to donate blood without parental consent. In some states, you can give blood at the age of 16 if you have written consent from a parent or guardian. Of course, you have to meet other qualifications even if you’re of age, such as the weight requirement.

Your weight matters

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You weight is also considered. | Nensuria/iStock/Getty Images

You must weigh at least 110 pounds before you can consider donating blood. Anyone weighing less than that might not be able to tolerate losing so much blood at one time — officials care about your safety, no matter how much you want to help! The rules are different if you’re under 18. There isn’t an upper weight limit for donating, as long as you don’t exceed the weight limit of your local facility’s equipment.

If you have low hemoglobin, you won’t be able to donate

A doctor preps a patient before a blood donation.

You might be turned away for this reason. | Yakobchuk Olena/iStock/Getty Images

A hemoglobin blood test is just one of multiple parts of the exam potential donors have to undergo before they can give blood. Inadequate hemoglobin levels often result in people not being able to donate. Having low hemoglobin doesn’t always mean you’re iron deficient. Eating a well-balanced meal before you head to your appointment might prevent this from happening to you.

Don’t try to donate if you have an infection

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If you have an infection, you will not be able to donate blood. | Airubon/iStock/Getty Images

Though a cold might seem like a minor inconvenience, it’s enough to keep you from giving blood — for now. In general, if you aren’t feeling 100% you shouldn’t try donating blood. If you have a fever or any kind of infection, Red Cross advises that you wait until you’re fully recovered. If you’re on antibiotics, finish them out completely (which you should always do anyway) before making another appointment to give blood.

Other diseases and conditions that disqualify you from donating blood

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If you have any questions, you should ask your nurse. | Shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

There’s a lot of confusion as to which medical conditions and circumstances do and don’t affect your ability to donate blood. There are certain conditions that will keep you out of eligibility for life, while others only defer you for a year.

  • Sickle cell disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted infections (wait 12 months after treatment)
  • Ebola virus
  • Zika virus

Piercings, tattoos, hormone replacement therapies, chronic diseases, and high or low blood pressure do not disqualify you from donating blood. You should wait the recommended amount of days or months after certain procedures or treatments before making an appointment to donate, though. As long as you meet basic eligibility requirements, you should be able to donate as often as allowed (every 56 days for whole blood donations).

LGBTQ+ donors

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The surprising reason why some people are turned away at donation centers. | Picsfive/iStock/Getty Images

According to the FDA, individuals at a higher risk of HIV/AIDS face deferment from giving blood. This is for the safety of recipients, since the tests each donation undergoes can’t detect all traces of early infection. According to current guidelines, even a man in a monogamous relationship with another man must wait 12 months after sexual contact before he is eligible to donate. This is an update from previous lifetime restrictions on gay and bisexual men who wanted to give blood.