Top 7 Myths About Blood Donation, Debunked

Man and woman donating blood in hospital sitting on recliners.

Each January, the United States recognizes National Blood Donor Month. Donating blood is an important step you can take to help your neighbors and community stay healthy. Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about giving blood.

Why Give Blood?

People might need to receive blood because of blood loss during surgery, anemia due to a disease like leukemia, or an injury from a car crash. In the U.S., someone needs blood or platelets every two seconds! At some point in your life, you could end up in a situation where you need blood yourself. And just one blood donation can save up to three lives

The problem is that blood banks are running low. One December 2023 survey showed that among 59 community blood centers in America, 23 were running low on blood donations. Five were critically low. 38% of the American population is eligible to give blood, but only 2% actually donates.

Let’s debunk some common myths about blood donation so you can make an informed decision on whether to donate blood

7 Myths About Donating Blood

Myth #1: I’m Ineligible to Donate Blood Because of My Age or Weight 

The criteria for giving blood vary from state to state. Most blood donation organizations accept donors between the ages of 17 and 65. Donors will need to weigh at least 110 pounds to safely give blood. Check with your donation center for any questions.

Myth #2: Donating Blood Is Painful

For most people, donating blood is painless. You may feel a prick or pinch from the needle as it goes into your vein. This pain, however, is usually minimal.

Some people experience a temporary drop in blood pressure which can cause feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness. You can help prevent this by:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating a healthy meal before donating blood
  • Avoiding strenuous activity, caffeine, and alcohol
  • Standing up slowly

The staff at the blood donation center will help you with any concerns.

Myth #3: Donating Blood Is Complicated

The blood donation process is fairly straightforward and usually takes about an hour total. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Registration
  • Brief health check
  • The donation itself
  • Brief recovery period

You can search online to find a blood donation center that is located conveniently to you.

Myth #4: Regular Blood Donation Isn’t Necessary

Giving blood on a regular basis is extremely helpful for people who need it. Blood is not only needed during crises. All sorts of patients — people undergoing surgery, childbirth, or treatment for other medical conditions — need blood. Over 38,000 blood donations are needed every day! Donating blood often is a way to help people who need it.

Myth #5: I Can’t Donate Blood If I Have A Tattoo or Piercing

You may be able to donate blood if you have a tattoo or piercing. However, it depends on your state and your blood center.

Typically, it’s okay to donate blood if you have a tattoo as long as the tattoo was given by a state-regulated entity using sterile needles and ink.

Piercings are acceptable if the instruments used were single-use, disposable pieces of equipment. If your piercing was performed with reusable equipment, you’ll need to wait three months before giving blood.

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Myth #6: Giving Blood Weakens My Immune System

You may have heard that you can get sick if you donate blood. However, it is not possible to contract HIV, AIDS, or any other bloodborne disease from donating blood. All needles used for blood donation are new and sterile. The FDA has several safety measures in place for the blood donation process.

In fact, donating blood can actually benefit your health. Regular blood donation is linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart attacks. It also helps reduce your risk of iron overload, which can be harmful to your health. 

Myth #7: I Can’t Donate Blood If I Have High Blood Pressure or Diabetes

According to the Red Cross, people with high blood pressure or diabetes can donate blood as long as they satisfy the following criteria:

  • High blood pressure — Your blood pressure must be below 180 systolic (first number) and below 100 diastolic (second number) at the time of donation.
  • Diabetes — Diabetes who are well-controlled on insulin or oral medications are eligible to donate.

Medications for high blood pressure do not disqualify you from donating.

FAQs About Blood Donation

Can I Donate Blood If I Have Certain Medical Conditions or Take Medications?

While this is a case-by-case basis, individuals with stable medical conditions are often able to donate blood. Common medications are generally acceptable, too. However, eligibility will depend on your specific condition(s) and medications.

How Often Can I Donate Blood?

How often you can donate blood depends on the type of donation, as well as local regulations. Typically, whole blood donation is allowed every eight weeks. You may be able to donate platelets more frequently (as often as every seven days). Check with your donation center for their policy.

Can I Give Blood If I’ve Recently Received a Vaccine?

In most cases, yes — recent vaccination does not disqualify you from donating blood. However, there might be deferral periods for certain vaccines. Again, check with your donation center to learn their guidelines. 

The Importance of Giving Blood

Donating blood is a safe, straightforward process that helps thousands of people every day. Your nearest blood donation center can answer any further questions and help you through the process. For more information on donating blood, read January Is Blood Donor Month. Never Donated? Here’s What to Know!

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