Common myths about blood donation

By The Health News Team | December 6, 2022
Blood donation myths

Local hospitals, including Sharp hospitals, rely every day on members of the community who give unselfishly of themselves through blood donation to help save the lives of others. Recently, the need for donations has become especially dire.

According to the San Diego Blood Bank, the community’s supply of Type O-negative and Type O-positive has hit critically low levels. Public health officials are issuing an urgent call for blood donations.

A chronic need for blood donations One in 7 people entering the hospital need blood or blood components. That blood is freely given by those who participate in their local blood drives. However, while nearly 40% of Americans are eligible to donate blood, the Red Cross reports only 3% do so, often because people think that they cannot donate for one reason or another.

If you were told in the past that you cannot donate, the requirements may have changed. It’s a good idea to try again as you may now be able to give. Five common myths about barriers to donating are busted below:

Myth 1: You can’t donate blood if you are on certain medications.

As long as you are healthy and meet all qualifications, medication should not prevent you from donating blood. However, there are a few medications that require a waiting period to donate.

These include:

  • Acne medications, such as isotretinoin, commonly known as Accutane (wait one month)

  • Blood thinners, such as Coumadin or Lovenox (wait seven days)

  • Propecia, a hair-loss medication (wait one month)

Other medications may require a waiting period of one day to two years or more. Check with your local blood bank about any medications you take or have taken to see if you are eligible to donate.

Myth 2: You can’t donate blood if you have certain medical conditions.

Well-managed health conditions, including diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension or asthma, will not interfere with blood donation. However, there are waiting periods for some conditions.

For example, all donors who have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having COVID-19, or who have symptoms shared with COVID-19, must wait 10 days from the date the symptoms resolved before donating. Additionally, donors who cared for, lived with or otherwise have had close contact with someone diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 infection, must wait 10 days from the last date of exposure.

Individuals who have AIDS, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, hepatitis B or C, or are HIV-positive cannot donate blood.

Myth 3: You can’t donate blood if you have traveled or lived overseas.

Most international travel will not interfere with blood donation. However, there are a few limitations related to outbreaks of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and mad cow disease. For example, you cannot donate blood if you spent a cumulative of 3 months or more in any country in the U.K. between Jan. 1, 1980, and Dec. 31, 1996; had a blood transfusion in France or the U.K. between Jan. 1, 1980, and the present; or if you spent a cumulative of 5 years or more from Jan. 1, 1980, through Dec. 31, 2001, in France or Ireland.

You may also be deferred if you spent time in a country with malaria in the last year. A donor specialist can help you make this determination.

Myth 4: You can’t donate blood if you recently got a tattoo or body piercing.

If you received your tattoo at a licensed shop in California, there is no need to wait to donate blood. If your piercing was performed with sterile, single-use needles (common in all piercing shops), there is no need to wait.

Myth 5: You can’t donate blood if you identify as LGBTQ+.

In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration changed their policy on blood donation from men who have sex with other men from a lifetime ban to a deferral of at least 3 months after last contact. Women who have sex with women, transgender, nonbinary and intersex individuals can donate blood if they meet all general eligibility requirements.

Refer to the San Diego Blood Bank website for more information on medication restrictions, waiting periods and other requirements for blood donation. It is likely that you will be able to donate if you’re 17 or older, in good general health and weigh at least 114 pounds.

The process to donate blood is quick and easy — and can help save a life. When you go to donate, a staff member will walk you through a series of questions to make sure you’re eligible; take your blood pressure, temperature and pulse; and take a blood sample to ensure your blood count is acceptable.

In San Diego, schedule an appointment to donate blood via the San Diego Blood Bank website or by calling 619-400-8251. Walk-ins are welcome.

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