For whole-blood donation, you can make an appointment using our simple on-line form. If you have any other questions or concerns regarding blood donation, call the NIH Blood Bank at (301) 496-1048. We can also answer many of your questions via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below, you will find a list of questions donors frequently ask. The eligibility criteria for blood donation at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Department of Transfusion Medicine (DTM) reflects local NIH policy as well as national regulations. Although all blood banks are required to follow general federal regulations, specific criteria may vary, depending on each blood bank's internal policies. If you are donating at a blood bank other than the NIH Blood Bank, contact that bank with any questions regarding your eligibility.
- Can I donate if I am 16 years old?
- Can I donate if I am 70 years old?
- Can I donate if I have traveled to other countries?
- Can I donate if I am positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or have acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)?
- Can I donate if I have allergies?
- Can I donate if I am taking antibiotics?
- Can I donate if I am taking pain relievers?
- Can I donate if I have had cancer?
- Can I donate if I have a cold or the flu?
- Can I donate if I have had dental work?
- Can I donate if I have had diabetes?
- Can I donate if I have had my ears pierced, had a tattoo, or had acupuncture?
- Can I donate if I have epilepsy?
- Can I donate if I have heart disease or had a heart attack?
- Can I donate if I have had angioplasty?
- Can I donate if I have had hepatitis?
- Can I donate if I received the hepatitis vaccine?
- Can I donate if I have herpes?
- Can I donate if I have high blood pressure?
- Can I donate if I have low blood pressure?
- Can I donate if I have low Hemoglobin (Hgb) or anemia?
- Can I donate if I had major surgery?
- Can I donate if I have had malaria?
- Can I donate if I have received a blood transfusion?
- Can I donate if I am menstruating?
- Can I donate if I am pregnant?
- Can I donate if I have sickle cell disease?
- Can I donate if I have had a vaccination?
- Can I donate if I am underweight?
Can I donate if I have traveled to other countries?
There is a slight risk of exposure to infectious agents outside the United States (US) that could cause serious disease. Donor deferral criteria for travel outside the US are designed to prevent the transmission of three specific organisms from donor to recipient:
- Malaria. Malaria is caused by a parasite that can be transmitted from mosquitoes to humans. It is found in several hundred countries, and is one of the leading causes of death from infectious diseases world-wide. Donors who have traveled to areas listed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as malarial risk areas are deferred for 1 year after their travel ends.
- Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). BSE is commonly referred to as "Mad Cow disease" and is caused by an abnormal, transmissible protein called a prion. In the 1990s, the United Kingdom experienced an epidemic of the disorder in cows, with subsequent cow-to-human transmission, presumably through the food chain. BSE-infected cattle were also detected in other countries in Western Europe. Transfusion-transmission of BSE among donor-recipient pairs has been documented in a handful of cases. Donors who have spent more than three months in the United Kingdom from 1980-1996, and donors who resided in Western Europe for greater than five years since 1980, are permanently deferred from blood donation (http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/ucm111482.htm).
Can I donate if I am positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or have acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)?
You cannot donate if you have tested positive for HIV or if you have AIDS. You also cannot donate if you have engaged in behavior that puts you at high risk for HIV exposure. For further information on high-risk behaviors, read the Donor Alert.
Can I donate if I am taking pain relievers?
You cannot donate while taking narcotics to relieve pain. You may donate blood while taking nonnarcotic pain relievers. Aspirin interferes with platelet function and should be discontinued prior to platelet donation as follows:
- Aspirin: You cannot donate platelets if you have taken aspirin in the last 48 hours.
- Nonaspirin: You can donate platelets if you have taken ibuprofen or other nonaspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
Special Caution: Many medications contain aspirin, so check the container carefully before making a platelet donation.
Can I donate if I have had cancer?
You can donate if you had skin cancer (basal cell or squamous cell) or cervical cancer in situ and the surgical site is completely healed. If you had another type of cancer, you can donate two years after the date of surgery or other definitive therapy, as long as your doctor informs you that there is no evidence of persistent or recurrent cancer. You are permanently deferred if you had leukemia or lymphoma.
Can I donate if I received the hepatitis vaccine?
You can donate if you have received the hepatitis vaccine (a series of three vaccinations). You must wait one year if you received Hepatitis B Immune Globulin or if you experienced a needlestick injury contaminated with untested blood.
Can I donate if I have low blood pressure?
You can donate with low blood pressure.
Can I donate if I have low Hemoglobin (Hgb) or anemia?
You must have a fingerstick hemoglobin value of at least 12.5 grams/dL to qualify for blood donation. If you are found to have a low hemoglobin level at the time of donation, you will be offered oral iron replacement therapy by NIH Blood Bank staff, and you will be deferred for 30 days for whole blood donations and 30 days for apheresis donations. A Facts About Iron educational sheet will be given to you.
Can I donate if I have sickle cell disease?
You cannot donate if you have sickle cell disease. You should not donate whole blood if you have sickle cell trait, because your blood will clog the filter that is applied to whole blood units. You can donate platelets if you are a sickle cell trait carrier.
Can I donate if I have had a vaccination?
Consult with an NIH Blood Bank nurse regarding any vaccinations received within the last year. Most vaccinations are acceptable if you are symptom-free, however you must wait 4 weeks after immunizations for German Measles (Rubella), MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), Chicken Pox and Shingles.