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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 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 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 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 Blood Donor Educational Material (in English) (in Spanish).
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 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.