For whole-blood donation, you can make an appointment using our simple on-line form. If you have any other questions or concerns regarding donation, call the NIH Blood Bank at (301) 496-1048. We can also answer many of your questions via email at email@example.com.
Below, you will find a list of questions donors frequently ask. The eligibility criteria for 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.
Special Update for LGBTQ+ Donors
Major changes are here!
On July 31, 2023, the NIH implemented the changes outlined in the recently revised FDA Guidance that recommends the adoption of Individual Donor Assessment (IDA) to determine blood donor eligibility. The finalized guidance poses the same donor screening questions to every donor, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
This change is the result of a multi-year research process informed by data from Canada and the United Kingdom, surveillance information from the Transfusion Transmissible Infections Monitoring System (TTIMS), data assessing performance characteristics of nucleic acid testing for HIV, and results from the FDA-funded ADVANCE study.
The NIH Blood Bank fully supports this important step towards inclusivity, one which will allow more individuals to safely contribute to the vital cause of blood donation. Our top priority is the safety of our volunteer blood donors and the patients in need of lifesaving blood products.
We look forward to welcoming new blood donors!
Can I donate if ...
- I am taking aspirin?
- I am 16 years old?
- I am 70 years old?
- I have traveled to other countries?
- I am positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or have acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)?
- I am taking PrEP or PEP?
- I am a man who has sex with men?
- I identify as transgender or non-binary?
- I have allergies?
- I am taking antibiotics?
- I am taking pain relievers?
- I have had cancer?
- I have a cold or the flu?
- I have had dental work?
- I have had diabetes?
- I have had my ears pierced, had a tattoo, or had acupuncture?
- I have epilepsy?
- I have heart disease or had a heart attack?
- I have had angioplasty?
- I have had hepatitis?
- I received the hepatitis vaccine?
- I have herpes?
- I have high blood pressure?
- I have low blood pressure?
- I have low Hemoglobin (Hb) or anemia?
- I had major surgery?
- I have had malaria?
- I have received a blood transfusion?
- I am menstruating?
- I am pregnant?
- I have sickle cell disease?
- I have had a vaccination?
- I am underweight?
Can I donate if I am taking aspirin?
You cannot donate platelets if you have taken aspirin in the last 48 hours.
Can I donate if I am 16 years old?
You must be at least 17 years old to donate at the NIH Blood Bank or Donor Center at Fishers Lane.
Can I donate if I am 70 years old?
There is no upper age limit for donation.
Can I donate if I have traveled to other countries?
There is a slight risk of exposure to infectious agents outside the United States 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 3 months after their travel ends.
- NOTE: You can donate platelets at the NIH even without waiting for three months after travelling to malarial risk area.
- Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). BSE, commonly referred to as "Mad Cow disease", 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.
- Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is a very rare, fatal disease that can infect a person for many years before making them sick by destroying brain cells. Eating beef and beef products contaminated with the infectious agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is the main cause of vCJD. There may be a risk of transmitting vCJD through blood transfusion.
- NOTE: FDA blood donor criteria have recently changed. Many persons who were previously unable to donate blood because they lived in the United Kingdom or in European countries are NOW ELIGIBLE to donate blood. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-496-1048 to find out if you are eligible to donate.
- See revised FDA guidance "Recommendations to Reduce the Possible Risk of Transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease by Blood and Blood Components".
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, including certain sexual activities. For further information, read the Blood Donor Educational Material (in English) (in Spanish).
ART or antiretroviral therapy is the use of a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) to treat HIV infection. HIV infection requires a permanent deferral despite treatment with ART. Antiretroviral drugs do not fully eliminate the virus from the body, and donated blood from individuals infected with HIV taking ART can potentially still transmit HIV to a transfusion recipient. Although "Undetectable = Untransmittable" for sexual transmission, this does not apply to transfusion transmission.
DO NOT STOP taking medications prescribed by your doctor in order to donate blood.
Can I donate if I am taking PrEP or PEP?
PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis involves taking a specific combination of oral medicines (i.e., short-acting antiviral PrEP) or injections (i.e., long-acting antiviral PrEP) as a prevention method for people who are HIV negative and at high risk of HIV infection. PEP or post-exposure prophylaxis is a short-acting treatment started as soon as possible after a high-risk exposure to HIV to reduce the risk of infection.
FDA has determined that the available data show that the use of PrEP or PEP may delay the detection of HIV by currently licensed screening tests for blood donations, potentially resulting in false negative results. Although "Undetectable = Untransmittable" for sexual transmission, this does not apply to transfusion transmission.
DO NOT STOP taking medications prescribed by your doctor in order to donate blood.
Can I donate if I am a man who has sex with men?
The FDA recently revised blood donor eligibility criteria in recent guidance document. Based on review of the available science, FDA recommends eliminating the screening questions specific to men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with MSM. Instead, FDA recommends assessing donor eligibility using the same individual risk-based questions relevant to HIV risk for every donor regardless of sex or gender.
Can I donate if I identify as transgender or non-binary?
Effective November 15, 2023, donors may select male (M), female (F) or other (X) designation in our computer system. We welcome blood donations from eligible donors regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Donors who were previously registered as M or F may change their designation if desired; please speak with a donor resources specialist to make this change.
Note: certain aspects of the donor safety evaluation are based on criteria derived from historical sex-specific data, namely hemoglobin determination and estimation of blood volume for apheresis procedures. Learn more about how these may be affected by your gender identity.
Can I donate if I have allergies?
You cannot donate if you are currently experiencing severe allergy symptoms.
Can I donate if I am taking antibiotics?
You can donate 24 hours after the last dose if you have no further signs of infection. You may donate while taking antibiotics for acne.
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 have a cold or the flu?
You can donate once you have been symptom-free for 48 hours. Additional precautions are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Can I donate if I have had dental work?
There is a 24-hour waiting period after a routine cleaning and a 72-hour wait after extractions, root canals, or oral surgery.
Can I donate if I have had diabetes?
If well-controlled by diet, oral medication, or insulin, you can donate. However, the use of insulin made from beef is a cause for permanent deferral.
Can I donate if I have had my ears pierced or had a tattoo?
You must wait 3 months after any tattoo or non-sterile skin piercing unless the piercing was done by single-use equipment.
Can I donate if I have epilepsy?
You can donate if you have been seizure free for at least one week.
Can I donate if I have heart disease or had a heart attack?
In some situations, you may donate if you have heart disease or have had a heart attack. Contact the NIH Blood Bank for more details.
Can I donate if I have had angioplasty?
You will need to consult with the NIH Blood Bank.
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 needle-stick injury contaminated with untested blood.
Can I donate if I have high blood pressure?
Blood pressure will be measured at the time of donation and must not be above requirements. You can donate as long as you feel well when you come to donate, and your blood pressure is below 180 systolic (first number) and below 100 diastolic (second number) at the time of donation. Medications for high blood pressure do not disqualify you from donating.
Can I donate if I have low blood pressure?
Blood pressure will be measured at the time of donation and must not be below requirements. You can donate as long as you feel well when you come to donate, and your blood pressure is at least 90 systolic (first number) and at least 50 diastolic (second number) at the time of donation.
Can I donate if I have low Hemoglobin (Hb) or anemia?
Female donors must have a hemoglobin level of at least 12.5g/dL and male donors are required to have a minimum level of 13.0g/dL. If your hemoglobin is too low, you will be asked not to donate blood for at least 30 days for both whole blood and apheresis donations. The most common reason for low hemoglobin is iron deficiency, and you will be given information about maintaining a healthy iron balance. View additional information about iron and blood donation.
Can I donate if I have sickle cell disease?
You cannot donate if you have sickle cell disease. If you are a carrier for the sickle cell trait, you may donate whole blood; however, your blood might clog the filter that is applied to whole blood units in the blood bank. You may be advised to donate platelets, since platelets do not require filtration in the blood bank.
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 four weeks after immunizations for German Measles (Rubella), MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), Chicken Pox and Shingles.
If you have received a COVID-19 vaccine, there is no waiting period after either shot before donating.
Can I donate if I am underweight?
You must weigh at least 110 pounds. There is no upper weight limit.