Can You Donate Blood if You Have a Tattoo?

After the recent mass shooting in the country, it has raised awareness on the importance of blood donation.

People who would like to give blood and become regular donors need to understand the requirements to become eligible.

One of the major issues that potential blood donors have is whether they can give if they have tattoos.

In general, people with tattoos can give blood but they may be disqualified in some instances.

Here is a bit more information for those who want to understand blood donation and how tattoos can affect that.


Blood Donation – What is it?

Blood donation is the process of giving away some of your blood, which is used to assist another person.(1)

The blood is used to assist people who have lost blood in an accident or those who have illnesses such as hemophilia, sickle cell disease, anemia, or cancer.

The donated blood contains thing such as plasma and red blood cells.

Blood with all the parts is known as whole blood. The most common place to donate blood is at American Red Cross clinic or any other clinic with a blood bank. It is also quite common to have blood drives at workplaces, during which you can donate blood.

During the donation process, about a pint of blood is extracted.

The process will usually take only about 10 minutes. You will also need to answer questions and take a short exam.

In total, it can take about an hour to donate blood.

After the donation, the blood is tested to see if it is safe for use. Besides that, the blood type is checked. It ensures that the person who needs the blood gets the correct blood they need.

Blood donation can be divided into two:

  1. The first one is whole blood donation. This is where you donate a pint of blood, which is later divided into various components later.
  2. The second one is apheresis.(2)

During this process, you are connected to a machine which then collects and separates the blood into its components.

These parts include plasma, platelets, and red cells. All the other components are returned to the body.


How often can you donate blood?

The frequency of blood donation will depend on the kind of blood donation you make.

For whole blood donation, you need to wait at least 56 days before you can donate again.(3) If you are seeking to make a platelet apheresis, you have to wait at least 7 days.

If you do a red blood cells apheresis, you need to wait about 112 days before you can donate again.

There is a handy blood donation calculator that you can use to estimate how often you need to donate blood.


Who Can Give Blood And Who Cannot Give Blood?

If you would like to donate your blood, you need to meet these basic requirements: (4)

You have to be at least 17 years old.

However, some states allow you to donate blood if you are s16, as long as you have written permission from your parents.

You will need to weigh at least 50 kg or 110 lbs. Additionally, you need to be in good health.

You will not be able to give blood for the following reasons: (5)

  • You recently donated blood or parts of it. You need to meet the medical wait times recommended by experts before you can donate your blood again.
  • You hemoglobin levels are too low. Before you are allowed to give blood, a test is carried out to test the level of hemoglobin in the blood. It must be at a certain level before you can give blood.
  • If you are pregnant, you cannot donate.
  • If you have visited certain countries in the recent past, you are disqualified from donating.
  • You cannot donate if your blood pressure is too low or too high. A standard blood pressure test is conducted before you are allowed to donate.
  • If you are taking certain medication.
  • If you have a specific health problem such as HIV.
  • You may not be able to donate if you recently got a tattoo. This will be discussed in more detail later on.
  • If you have a chronic illness such as diabetes, you will not be allowed to donate. However, you can still donate if your illness is under control. Additionally, if you feel like you are about to catch a cold or flu, you should not donate.
  • If you recently had sex with someone that has a blood clotting disorder or hemophilia and he or she recently received clotting factor concentrates, you cannot donate. You may need to wait at least one year before you can give blood.
  • If you are a gay person and you recently had oral or anal sex with a fellow man, you may have to wait at least 12 months before you can donate blood. Any female who has a male partner that had sex with a man may also not give blood for at least a year. If you have had sexual relations with a commercial sex worker, you may also not give blood for 12 months.
  • If you have received any antibiotics from your GP in the last week, you cannot give blood. You should also wait until any infection you have clears up before you can to give blood.
  • Another reason you may not give blood is if you have had sexual relations with a drug user. If you know your sex partner often uses drugs, you may have to wait at least one year before you are allowed to give blood.

Before you can donate, a health professional will ask you to fill out a form where you explain any current and past health problems, you have had.

Some of these questions are quite personal and so they are usually asked in private.

You should note that the requirements change quite often, thus you should visit the clinic in order to find out the exact requirements you need to fulfill.


What Conditions Disqualify You From Donating Blood?

According to Stephen Juan, Ph.D., there are some conditions, which can make you ineligible from donating blood. Here are a few of them: (6)

  • If you are HIV positive or you have the hepatitis virus, you cannot be allowed to donate blood.
  • If you have any piercing on your body, you may not be allowed to donate blood. You can still donate blood if the piercing was made at a certified place. Otherwise, you will need to wait about a year before you can make a blood donation.
  • Another condition that disqualifies you from donating blood is imprisonment. Additionally, if you are in the military and you are serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, you are not allowed to donate blood for at least a year.
  • People who have diabetes are usually not allowed to give blood. But, if you are using insulin, you can donate blood as long as you are the only one who uses the insulin syringe.
  • Another condition that prevents you from donating blood is dwarfism; being physically small means that you do not have enough blood in your system to give a pint of blood.
  • If you have the flu, you cannot give blood. However, if you have been exposed to someone with flu, you can give blood, as long you do not feel any flu symptoms.
  • People who are pregnant or just recently gave birth cannot give blood. Donating blood at this time could present risks to the mother and child.
  • If you have low or high cholesterol, you are not allowed to give blood.
  • If you have a low level of iron in your body, you may not be allowed to give blood. This is done to avoid placing the person’s health at risk if they donate blood.
  • If you have had cancer, you are only allowed to donate blood five years after you last radiation or chemotherapy treatment.
  • People with blood cancer such as lymphoma or leukemia are not allowed to give blood.
  • For blood cancers (such as leukemia or lymphoma), a person is not allowed to donate blood.
  • People who have had malaria cannot give blood for at least 12 months. The parasite can lay dormant for months.


I Just Got a Tattoo, Can I Donate?

If you have had a tattoo, you may have to wait a few months before you can give blood.(7)

However, they have to ensure they got the tattoos is a state-regulated tattoo parlor. If they come from a state with no tattoo parlor regulation, they will need to wait for as long as 12 months before they can give blood.(8)

This also applies to cosmetic tattoos.


How to Prepare For a Blood Donation

Before you go for a blood donation, there a few things you can do:

  • First, you need to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Blood donation can leave you feeling exhausted, which only becomes worse if you did not get enough sleep at night.
  • Secondly, you should ensure you take a heavy breakfast on the morning of the donation. Avoid fatty foods since they can affect the outcome of certain tests performed.
  • Besides that, you need to ensure that you take plenty of fluids on the day of the donation.


Post Donation Care

Most people feel okay after they give blood. But, if you feel a bit dizzy, lie down and wait for the feeling to pass.

You will also need to take foods rich in iron such as beans and red meat to replace the lost iron. Also, avoid any strenuous physical activity for 24hours and get plenty of sleep.



Unless you have any of the conditions mentioned above, you should be able to donate blood.

If you have tattoos, do not be afraid to donate blood.

As long as it was done at a certified place, you can donate blood. Always inquire whether the tattoo parlor is regulated before you get your tattoo.

This will ensure that you are safe and that you can donate blood.