Factors that may affect your eligibility to donate blood

Blood donations are vital to many people’s survival. Whether someone has lost blood after a car accident or as the result of a chronic disease, without the selfless decision by millions of blood donors to donate blood, people in need may not be able to overcome their injuries and illnesses.

The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute notes that it conducted 15,699 red blood cell transfusions and 11,621 platelet transfusions in 2019. Cancer patients may need transfusions for a variety of reasons. Some may have lost a significant amount of blood during surgery, while others may experience a low blood count due to their treatments. Cancers in the blood and bone marrow do not allow the body to produce normal blood-making cells, thereby creating the need for transfusions.

Prospective donors recognize the need for blood, which may be even greater as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that it’s safe to donate blood during the pandemic, social distancing guidelines and nervousness about donating adversely affected the blood supply in the United States and other nations in 2020. However, the American Red Cross notes that only a handful of factors may affect prospective donors’ eligibility to donate blood.

Cold, flu and other illnesses

The Red Cross urges prospective donors to wait to donate blood if they:

• have a fever or a productive cough (one that brings up phlegm)

• do not feel well on the day of their scheduled donation

Donors also are urged to wait to donate until they have completed antibiotic treatment for sinus, throat or lung infections.

Additional requirements regarding donors’ height and weight as well as donation intervals can be found at www.redcrossblood.org.

Medications

The Red Cross says that most medications will not disqualify prospective donors from being able to donate. However, the Red Cross also notes that some medications may require a waiting period after patients take their final dose before they are eligible to donate. Donors can contact their local blood donation center as well as their physicians to determine if any medications they’re currently taking or have taken recently will affect their eligibility to donate.

Low iron

Some donors are ineligible to donate because of low iron. Donation center staff conduct screening tests to measure the amount of hemoglobin present in potential donors’ blood. Hemoglobin is a protein in the body that contains iron and carries oxygen to the tissues in the body. If the hemoglobin count is too low, donors will be asked to wait to donate. The body needs iron to make new red blood cells and can help to replace those lost through blood donations. Thankfully, donors whose hemoglobin levels are low can take steps, such as eating foods that are rich in iron, to improve their hemoglobin levels so they can donate blood in the future.

Travel

Potential donors may be ineligible to donate blood if they lived in or traveled to a malaria-risk country in the past three years. Travel destinations will be reviewed at the time of donation, so donors should be ready to answer questions about their travels during their donation appointment.

Donating blood saves lives. To ensure the safety of donors and donation recipients, prospective donors may need to wait to donate until they meet certain eligibility requirements.

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