Can you donate blood if you have a tattoo? Eligibility and more

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If you have a tattoo, you can only donate blood if you meet certain criteria. As a general rule, you may not be able to donate blood if your tattoo is less than 3 months old.

This also goes for piercings and all other non-medical injections on your body.

Getting ink, metal, or any other foreign material into your body affects your immune system and can expose you to harmful viruses. This can affect what’s in your bloodstream, especially if you got a tattoo somewhere that isn’t regulated or doesn’t follow safe practices.

If there is a risk that your blood has been compromised, the donation center will not be able to use it. Keep reading to learn more about eligibility criteria, where to find a donation center, and more.

Giving blood after recently getting a tattoo can be dangerous. Although rare, a dirty tattoo needle can carry a number of bloodborne viruses, such as:

People with new tattoos are traditionally advised to wait a year before donating blood to reduce their risk of unknowingly transmitting these viruses.

However, in April 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated their recommendations and proposed a recommended deferral period of 3 months. If you have contracted a blood-borne disease, detectable antibodies will likely appear during this 3 month period.

That said, you may be able to donate blood in less than 3 months if you got your tattoo done at a state-regulated tattoo shop. State-regulated shops are regularly monitored for safe and sterile tattooing practices, so the risk of infection is low.

Some states have chosen not to be regulated, so be sure to ask your favorite artist in advance about their qualifications.

It’s best to work with licensed artists who tattoo in state-regulated shops. Often, their certifications are prominently displayed on store walls.

Getting a tattoo at a tattoo shop that is not regulated by the state makes you ineligible to donate blood for 3 months.

States that do not require tattoo shops to be regulated include:

  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Maryland
  • Nevada, although state laws are being drafted
  • New York, although state laws are in development
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

However, some cities or counties in these states may regulate their tattoo shops locally.

State-regulated tattoo shops are required to meet certain safety and health standards to avoid contaminating their customers’ blood with blood-borne diseases. These standards cannot be guaranteed in unregulated tattoo shops.

Often you also cannot donate blood for 3 months after getting a piercing.

Like tattoos, piercings can introduce foreign bodies and pathogens into your body. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV can be contracted through contaminated blood from a piercing.

There is also a catch to this rule.

Although many states regulate facilities that provide piercing services, there are specific rules regarding eligibility based on the equipment used.

If your piercing was done with a single-use gun or needle in a state-regulated facility, you should be able to donate blood.

If the gun was reusable – or if you’re not absolutely sure it was single-use – you shouldn’t donate blood for 3 months.

Conditions that affect your blood in some way can prevent you from donating blood.

Permanent ineligibility

Conditions that make you permanently ineligible to donate blood to the American Red Cross include:

Having many of these conditions can also make you permanently ineligible to donate to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) blood bank.

Unlike the American Red Cross, the NIH Blood Bank cannot accept donations from people who have used bovine insulin to treat diabetes.

However, they do accept donations from some people with hepatitis. People with the disease at age 11 or younger can donate blood to the NIH blood bank.

Temporary ineligibility

According to the American Red Cross, other conditions that may prevent you from donating blood, even temporarily, include:

  • Bleeding conditions. If you are bleeding, you may be eligible to donate blood as long as you do not have blood clotting problems and are not taking blood thinners.
  • Blood transfusion. If you received a transfusion from someone in the United States, you can donate after a 3-month waiting period.
  • Cancer. Your eligibility depends on the type of cancer you have. Talk to your doctor before donating blood.
  • Dental or oral surgery. You may qualify 3 days after surgery.
  • Heart attack, heart surgery or angina pectoris. You are ineligible for at least 6 months after any of these events.
  • Heart murmur. If you have a history of heart murmurs, you may be eligible as long as you receive treatment and are able to go at least 6 months without symptoms.
  • High or low blood pressure. You are not eligible if your blood pressure is above 180/100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or below 90/50 mm Hg.
  • Immunizations. Vaccination rules vary. You may be eligible 4 weeks after vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), chicken pox and shingles. You may be eligible 2 weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine, 21 days after a hepatitis B vaccine, and 8 weeks after a smallpox vaccine.
  • infections. You may qualify 10 days after completing an antibiotic injection treatment.
  • Travelling abroad. Traveling to certain countries may make you temporarily ineligible. Talk to your doctor before donating blood.
  • Intravenous (IV) drug use. If you have used intravenous medication without a prescription, you must wait 3 months before donating blood.
  • Malaria. You may be eligible 3 years after treatment for malaria or 3 months after traveling to an area where malaria is common.
  • Pregnancy. You are not eligible during pregnancy, but you may be eligible 6 weeks after giving birth.
  • Syphilis and gonorrhea. You may be eligible 3 months after finishing treatment for these sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Tuberculosis. You may be eligible once the TB infection is successfully treated.
  • Zika virus. You can be eligible 120 days after feeling the last symptoms of the Zika virus.

There are minimum requirements for donating blood in the United States. You have to:

  • be at least 17 years old (or 16, in some places, if you have the consent of a parent or guardian)
  • weigh at least 110 pounds (49.89 kilograms)
  • not be anemic
  • not have a body temperature above 99.5°F (37.5°C)
  • not be pregnant
  • not have had tattoos or piercings in unregulated facilities in the last 3 months
  • not have disqualifying medical conditions

Talk to your doctor if you have any doubts about your eligibility to donate blood. You can also get tested for any condition or infection if you have recently:

  • travel
  • had sex without using a condom or other barrier method
  • used intravenous or injection drugs without a prescription

You can find a donation center near you by searching the Internet. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers have walk-in donation centers that you can visit almost any time.

Many blood banks and donation services, such as the American Red Cross and the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies, have traveling blood banks that visit schools, organizations, and other scheduled locations. in advance.

The American Red Cross website also has pages to help you find blood drives and provide resources to organize your own. As a host, all you need to do is:

  • provide a location for the American Red Cross to set up a mobile donation center
  • raise awareness of the campaign and obtain donors from your institution or organization
  • coordinate donation schedules

Before donating

Before donating blood, follow these tips to prepare your body:

  • Wait at least 8 weeks after your last donation to donate whole blood again.
  • Drink 16 ounces of water or juice.
  • Follow an iron-rich diet consisting of foods such as spinach, red meat, and beans.
  • Avoid a high-fat meal just before donating.
  • Do not take aspirin for at least 2 days before donation if you are also planning to donate platelets.
  • Avoid very stressful activities.

After donating

After donating blood:

  • Have extra fluids (at least 32 ounces more than usual) for a full day after donating blood.
  • Avoid alcohol for the next 24 hours.
  • Keep the bandage on for a few hours.
  • Avoid working out or doing any strenuous physical activity overnight.

Getting a tattoo or piercing does not prevent you from donating blood if you wait 3 months or follow proper precautions to get a safe, sterile tattoo in a regulated facility.

Talk to your doctor if you think you have other conditions that might prevent you from donating blood. They can answer all your questions and advise you on your next steps.

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