What are the criteria for donating blood?

Being charitable could be as straightforward as donating blood. The American Red Cross Society has made us understand that over 31% of blood transfusions in the world come from voluntary non-remunerated blood donors. It is ideal that before donors are allowed to donate blood, they are made to understand the criteria for donating blood and also who cannot donate blood.

The donors are made to understand the dos and don’ts of blood donation and are also further enlightened on some important facts like; how often they can donate blood and how much blood they should donate at a time, the benefits of blood donation, disadvantages, etc.

Remember that blood donation should be safe and healthy for both the donor and the recipient, that is why these requirements were drafted out to guide blood banks in checking out for people who meet the criteria for blood donation.

Also, in the process of checking if one is eligible for blood donation, series of tests are done on the donor to guide the blood bank.

The reason why these pre-blood donation tests are taken very seriously in many countries of low economic status is because of fraudulent donors. By now you should have known that in some countries, some people are paid to donate blood; the paid blood donors.

These paid blood donors in a bid to make more money may do all sorts of things to manipulate their way into passing all the blood donation checks and tests which will, in turn, put both the patients and the paid donors at serious health risks if the blood bank is not very strict with their eligibility tests.

Also, Read; History of Blood donation, and Red Cross

So what are the eligibility requirements for blood donors?

blood donation requirements

1. Age Criteria for Donating Blood

The maximum age for blood donation is 65 years in most countries and the minimum age for blood donation is 18 years. But in some countries of high socio-economic status like the United States, the minimum is 17 years.

But you must not be more than 60 years of age at your first donation. So if you have not yet donated blood before, and you are already 60 years of age, you can find other ways of being charitable to humanity.

Why Younger and Older Persons cannot donate Blood?

According to JAMA and Archives Journals, the reason why children below the age of 17 are not allowed to donate blood is that some studies have shown that they are more prone to suffer some complications related to blood donation like bruising and fainting than their older counterparts.

Also, another reason why children below the age of 17 are not allowed to donate blood is that they have not yet reached the legal age of consent which is 18 in Nigeria. People of younger ages having lower iron reserves could also be a source of minor concern.

As for the older people aged above 65 years, they do not meet the requirements for blood donation because their bone marrow has a lower capacity of producing blood cells because as we age, our bone marrow is gradually replaced by fibro-fatty tissues with little stem cells for blood regeneration.

2. Blood Donation Weight Requirements

One cannot be eligible for blood donation without their weights being checked. For you to be eligible for blood donation, it is required that you weigh at least 50 kg (110 pounds or 7 stone 12 pounds).

The reason why people who weigh less than 50kg cannot donate is that they are more likely to suffer from some adverse effects linked to low blood volumes like dizziness, fainting, and hypotension.

Although I have seen some people who weigh 48kg who donate blood and still come out healthy and sound with proper fluid replacement, please do not try this without consulting your physician.

If you want to start your fitness journey and maintain a healthy weight, it will be good to see the answers to common questions that fitness newbies ask based on an interview.

weight requirements for blood donation
Weighing balance

3. Appropriate Body Mass Index for blood donation

The height and weight requirements to donate blood are summed up by what is known as Body Mass Index (BMI).

The body mass index is the marker for the nutritional status of a person. It is derived by measuring a person’s weight in Kilogram (kg) and dividing it by the person’s height in square meters.

BMI = Weight/Height2

Unit = Kg/M2

You may wonder why you cannot donate blood even when you above 50kg. There is this misconception that most people I know have about blood donation, and it is that fat people or heavier people have more blood than their normal or skinny counterparts.

Now you may also want to ask; what if someone weighs above 50kg but is not up to 4 feet tall; will they be eligible for blood donation?

The answer is No!

height measuring tape
meter and foot measuring tape

So that is why the Body Mass Index is used to help blood banks to ascertain the nutritional status of a person.

The table below summarizes the height and weight requirements to donate blood (BMI):

Body Mass Index (Kg/M2)Nutritional Status
Less than 18Malnourished
18-24Healthy (Normal)
25 – 29Overweight
30-34Mild Obesity
35-49Moderate Obesity
More than 50Morbid Obesity
BMI (Height and weight requirements to donate blood)

 So if you check your Body Mass Index and it does not fall within the healthy range of 18 – 24 Kg/M2, then you will not be eligible for blood donation.

Still confused about the Body Mass Index? Find out more about it on wikipedia.

4. Hemoglobin Level Required to Donate Blood

Hemoglobin is the chemical (protein) that helps carry the oxygen in our red blood cells. The hemoglobin concentration level is the amount of hemoglobin in grams present in one deciliter of our blood. It is measured in grams/dl.

The hemoglobin concentration level is the factor that helps not just to check if we can donate blood. But also, tells us how much blood we can donate at a time.

The Normal Hemoglobin concentration level for males is 13-17g/dl and 12-15g/dl for females. So if you have anything below this normal range of hemoglobin concentration, you are not eligible for blood donation.

In most health facilities in Nigeria where there is no hemoglobinometer; a machine used to check the hemoglobin concentration level, is derived indirectly from the pack cell volume (hematocrit) which is easily measured using a special centrifuge. The hemoglobin concentration is then calculated by dividing the PCV by 3.

The Normal PCV (hematocrit) is 45 – 52 % for males and 35 to 45% for females.

Find out creative ways of encouraging blood donation

5. Time Interval Between Blood Donation

It takes an average of 120 days for new blood to replace old blood cells. So after each episode of blood donation, you are expected to wait for at least 120 days (12 weeks or 3 months).

So in a year, you are allowed to donate just 3 times. This also answers the question; how often can you donate blood?

6. Can You Donate Blood While Pregnant or Breast-Feeding?

Pregnant women and women who are currently breastfeeding their babies are not allowed to donate blood because, in the process of blood donation, lots of iron are lost from the body, and such women require a high amount of iron in such periods.

7. People with Cardiovascular Diseases

If you are diagnosed of one or more of the cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, then you are at risk of suffering some serious complications linked to low blood volume after an episode of blood donation. So it is advised that such people should not donate blood.

8. People With Significant Respiratory Disorders

Respiratory disorders are those disorders that affect our airways and lungs, making it difficult for one to get access to breathe in oxygen. People with significant respiratory disorders are prone to suffering hypoxia from low blood oxygen a cannot donate.

Such respiratory disorders that makes one ineligible to donate blood include;

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Asthma (chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases)
  • Lung Cancer
  • Bronchitis (Inflammation of the airways), etc.

9. Brain Disorders

Suffering from certain brain disorders like epilepsy makes you not to be eligible for blood donation.

10. Gastrointestinal Disorders

Remember that iron is important in the process of blood formation, and the bulk of the iron we eat is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.

There are also certain chemicals in the stomach that play very important roles in the absorption of iron, and an example is an Intrinsic factor that is produced by the parietal cells in the stomach.

So suffering from any disease that may affect the digestion and absorption of iron, folic acid and other important nutrients that help in the formation of blood automatically makes you ineligible for blood donation.

Examples of such diseases or conditions that may affect absorption include:

  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome
  • Celiac Disease
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Prolonged use of some drugs like tetracycline and some antibiotics, colchicine, or cholestyramine
  • Exposure to Radiation may damage the lining of the stomach and intestines
  • Some parasitic infestations
  • Some surgeries that involves the resection of the intestines, etc.

Learn more about the diseases that interfere with food absorption on healthline.

11. Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus

Insulin-dependent diabetes Mellitus is a disease condition in which the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin. Such persons are usually placed on insulin therapy and hence not eligible for blood donation.

This is because of the effect of blood donations on insulin levels.

12. People with Chronic Kidney Disease

The kidney cortex is the center for the production of a protein called erythropoietin which is very essential in the production of red blood cells.

So people with chronic kidney diseases may have a deficiency in erythropoietin levels, hence cannot donate blood.

13. People Undergoing Clinical Trials

People who are undergoing clinical trials or medical investigations are not permitted to donate blood. Such persons are expected to be placed under surveillance in case of any health challenges that may arise during the period of the clinical trials, hence cannot donate blood at that time.

14. Occupational Criteria for Blood Donation

There are certain occupations that may make someone not eligible for blood donations. This is because of a scenario called delayed fainting; meaning that they faint when they return to their places of work thereby exposing them to serious risks.

People with the following occupations are affected:

  • Drivers
  • Pilots
  • Heavy machine operators (example crane operators)
  • Miners
  • Scaffolding, etc.

15. Can you Donate Blood with Tattoos?

There is another myth about blood donation; that people with tattoos are not eligible for blood donation.

While this is a misconception, on the other hand, people who got their tattoos from non-recognized facilities, and people who have not stayed at least 6 months after their last tattoo are not allowed to donate blood.

16. Can You Donate Blood After Getting Vaccinated?

You are not allowed to donate blood if you have not stayed up to 2 months since your last vaccination.

The reason could be linked to the fact that our body needs time to build enough antibodies against the disease they are being vaccinated for which means we need to give it more time to do this.

17. ABO Incompatibility for Blood Donation

Blood donation charts are available to help us know our ABO compatibility. People with certain blood types are not allowed to donate blood to people with other blood types.

The Blood Donation chart below summarizes all you need to know about the ABO compatibility:

Blood TypeGivesReceives
A+A+, AB+A+, A, O+, O
O+O+, A+, AB+, B+O+, O
B+AB+, B+B+, B, O+, O
AB+AB+Everyone
AA+, A, AB+, ABA, O
OEveryoneO
BB+, B, AB+, AB B, O
ABAB+, ABA, AB,B, O
Blood Donation Chart

18. Certain Viral Infections

There are certain blood transmissible viral infections, and infected people do not meet the criteria for donating blood. They include;

  • HIV/AIDS (Type 1 and 2)
  • Hepatitis B Virus
  • Hepatitis C Virus
  • Human T-cell Leukaemia Virus (HTLV)
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) – for immunosuppressed recipients.

19. Can You Donate Blood If You Have Malaria?

People suffering from certain protozoal diseases like malaria are not eligible for blood donation in some countries like the United States, the U.K, and other non-endemic regions.

But in the tropics and sub-Saharan regions of Africa like Nigeria where malaria is endemic, Malaria test is not done routinely before blood donation.

20. People Suffering from Other Diseases

People suffering from other diseases like Syphilis, Prion disease (Creutzfold Jacob’s disease), and Chagas disease are not eligible for blood donations.

eligibility for blood donation
eligibility for blood donation

Summary

The criteria for donating blood are based on a lot of factors like;

  • Sex: Males are more likely to be eligible for blood donation as compared to females due to the monthly blood loss in females.
  • Age: Blood donation is only for t those aged between 18-65 years of age.
  • Race: Caucasians are more likely to have higher hemoglobin concentration while Africans are more likely to have higher white blood cell counts.
  • Geographical location: People living in higher altitudes are more likely to have higher hemoglobin concentration because they live in regions of lower oxygen levels.
  • Physical activity: Also, people who are more physically active are more likely to have higher Hemoglobin concentrations because they have more tolerance for low oxygen concentrations.
  • Nutrition: People who feed well are generally healthier and are most likely to meet all the blood donation requirements.
  • Health status: People who are sick, or who may be suffering from certain illnesses some of which were listed above are not eligible for blood donation.

Conclusion

It is good to be well informed and guided well before we donate blood. Some of the criteria for donating blood listed above may be too difficult to understand, but just carry them along with you while you plan to donate blood.

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