Last updated: 06/20/2019
By: Yvette Marie Miller, MD., Executive Medical Officer
By: Kathleen M. Grima, MD., Executive Medical Officer
By: Mary Ann Plonowski., RN., BSN
Note to users: Eligibility guidelines may have changed since this information was last updated. For current information, please contact the American Red Cross blood region nearest you.
In-Depth Discussion of Age and Blood Donation
Those younger than age 17 are almost always legal minors (not yet of the age of majority) who cannot give consent by themselves to donate blood. (Each state determines its own age of majority, which can be different for different activities.)
Persons under the age of 17 may, however, donate blood for their own use, in advance of scheduled surgery or in situations where their blood has special medical value for a particular patient such as a family member.
In-Depth Discussion of Variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease and Blood Donation
In some parts of the world, cattle can get an infectious, fatal brain disease called Mad Cow Disease. In these same locations, humans have started to get a new disease called variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (vCJD) which is also a fatal brain disease. Scientists believe that vCJD is Mad Cow Disease that has somehow transferred to humans, possibly through the food chain.
There is now evidence from a small number of case reports involving patients and laboratory animal studies that vCJD can be transmitted through transfusion. There is no test for vCJD in humans that could be used to screen blood donors and to protect the blood supply. This means that blood programs must take special precautions to keep vCJD out of the blood supply by avoiding collections from those who have been where this disease is found.
At this time, the American Red Cross donor eligibility rules related to vCJD are as follows:
You are not eligible to donate if:
From January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1996, you spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 3 months or more, in the United Kingdom (UK), or
From January 1, 1980, to present, you had a blood transfusion in any country(ies) in the (UK) or France. The UK includes any of the countries listed below.
- Channel Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Isle of Man
- Northern Ireland
You were a member of the U.S. military, a civilian military employee, or a dependent of a member of the U.S. military who spent a total time of 6 months on or associated with a military base in any of the following areas during the specified time frames
- From 1980 through 1990 - Belgium, the Netherlands (Holland), or Germany
- From 1980 through 1996 - Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy or Greece.
You spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 5 years or more from January 1, 1980, to present, in any combination of country(ies) in Europe, including
- in the UK from 1980 through 1996 as listed above
- on or associated with military bases as described above, and
- in other countries in Europe as listed below:
- Canary Islands
- Czech Republic
- French Guiana
- Ireland (Republic of)
- Le Reunion
- Netherlands (Holland)
- Slovak Republic
- Spanish North African Territories (Penon de Velez De la Gomera, Penon de Alhucemas, Islas Chafarinas, and the cities of Centa and Melilla)
- Yugoslavia (or the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
In-Depth Discussion of Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (CJD) and Blood Donation
CJD is a rare, progressive and fatal brain disorder that occurs in all parts of the world and has been known about for decades. CJD is different from variant CJD, the new disease in humans thought to be associated with Mad Cow disease in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
CJD appears to be an infectious disease. It has been transmitted from infected humans to patients through the transplantation of the covering of the brain (dura mater), use of contaminated brain electrodes, and injection of growth hormones derived from human pituitary glands. Rarely, CJD is associated with an hereditary predisposition; that is, it occurs in biologic or “blood” relatives ( persons in the same genetic family).
There is evidence that CJD can be transmitted from donors to patients through blood transfusions. There is no test for CJD that could be used to screen blood donors. This means that blood programs must take special precautions to keep CJD out of the blood supply by not taking blood donations from those who might have acquired this infection.
You are considered to be at higher risk of carrying CJD if you
- Received a dura mater (brain covering) graft;
- Received human pituitary-derived growth hormone injections; or
- Have a biologic relative who has been diagnosed with CJD.
- If any of these descriptions apply to you, you should not donate blood until more is known about CJD and the risk to the blood supply.
In-Depth Discussion of Hepatitis and Blood Donation
"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can be caused by many things including gallstones, medications, drinking alcohol, obesity and liver infections.
Hepatitis caused by Hepatitis B virus and Hepatitis C virus can be easily transmitted from donors to patients through transfusion. It is possible for a donor to carry a hepatitis virus even though he has never been sick with an inflamed liver, and he feels entirely well at the time of donation.
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are transmitted between people through sexual contact and blood-to-blood contact, such as occurs when needles are shared during IV drug use. Hepatitis viruses can also be transmitted from mothers to their unborn babies. However, many people who have hepatitis virus infection cannot determine how they became infected. There is a vaccine for the hepatitis B virus.
All blood donations are tested for hepatitis B and hepatitis C with several different tests. But because these tests are not perfect, it is still important for people who may be infected with hepatitis viruses to not donate blood. In some cases, all that is required is a waiting period after some particular event, such as an exposure to a patient with hepatitis, to be sure the person was not infected. In other cases, the likelihood of hepatitis is high enough that the person is not eligible to donate regardless of how much time has gone by.
In-Depth Discussion of Malaria and Blood Donation
Malaria is a blood infection caused by a parasite that can be transmitted from a donor to a patient through transfusion. It is possible to have a new infection with malaria but have no symptoms, even though the parasite is present in your blood. It is also possible to feel well, but have a very mild case of malaria, especially if you have lived for extended periods of time in parts of the world where malaria is found.
The Centers for Disease Control and Protection keep track of the locations with malaria for international travelers from the United States, and this information is available on their web site. You can see if malaria is found in the location you traveled to or lived in by searching for it on the CDC web- site. Malaria Information by country can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/country_table/a.html.
Blood donations are not tested for malaria. Therefore, it is important that people who may have malaria or been exposed to malaria because of living in, or traveling to, a country where malaria is present not be allowed to donate blood until enough time has passed to be certain that they are not infected with malaria. This is done by having a waiting period for those who lived in, move from, or traveled to, the locations with malaria.
If you have traveled outside of the United States, your travel destinations will be reviewed to see if you were in a malaria-risk area. It would be most helpful if you came prepared to report the country and city or destinations to which you traveled, as well as the travel dates.