Blood donation (giving blood) - Who can donate 

Who can donate blood? 

Blood transfusion

A haematologist describes the process of giving blood and the reasons why people need a blood transfusion. She also explains how the blood is tested to reduce the risk of infection.

Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015

Religious beliefs

All major religions in the UK support the principles of blood and organ donation. They also agree these types of donation should always be a matter of personal choice, and that no one should ever be pressured into making a donation.

The NHS Blood and Transplant website has more information about religious perspectives on organ donations.

Most people between the ages of 17 and 66 who weigh over 50kg (7st 12lb) and have a good level of general health will be able to donate blood.

If you are over 70, you need to have given blood in the last two years to continue donating.

Your blood volume may need to be estimated first if you are a women and you:

  • are under 20 years old
  • weigh under 65kg (10st 3lb)
  • are under 168cm (5' 6") in height

It is usually recommended that women leave 16 weeks (4 months) and men 12 weeks (3 months) between donations.

People who cannot donate blood

Before donating blood, you will be asked to fill out a confidential donor health check form. This makes sure that your blood is suitable for donation.

Not everyone can donate blood and the donor health check form ensures that people receiving the blood are not exposed to harmful viruses or infections. It's also to avoid putting you at risk if there's a reason why giving blood might harm you.

If you are not sure whether you are able to give blood, call NHS Blood and Transplant on 0300 123 23 23 for advice.

You may not be able to donate blood if:

  • you have had a serious illness or major surgery in the past
  • you have had complicated dental work (it is safe to donate blood 24 hours after having a filling or seven days after a simple extraction)
  • you have recently come into contact with an infectious disease
  • you have had certain immunisations within the last four weeks
  • you are currently on a hospital waiting list, or waiting to have tests

You should not give blood if:

  • you have a chesty cough, sore throat or an active cold sore
  • you are taking antibiotics or have finished a course of antibiotics in the last seven days
  • you are pregnant or have given birth in the last six months
  • you have had hepatitis A or jaundice in the last 12 months
  • you have had a tattoo, semi-permanent make up or any sort of body piercing in the last four months
  • a member of your immediate family has had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) – a rare condition that affects the nervous system and causes brain damage
  • you have had acupuncture in the last four months, unless this was done within the NHS or by a qualified healthcare professional registered with a statutory body
  • you have received human pituitary extract (a substance used in some growth hormone and fertility treatments before 1985)
  • you have received blood during the course of a medical treatment or procedure since 1980

You should not donate blood for 12 months after having sex with:

  • a commercial sex worker 
  • someone who has injected drugs
  • someone who has haemophilia (a condition that stops your blood from clotting normally) or another type of blood disorder that required clotting factor treatment
  • someone who has been sexually active in parts of the world where HIV and AIDS are common – such as sub-Saharan Africa
  • a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man (if you are female)
  • a man (if you are male)  with or without a condom

You should never donate blood if you have ever:

  • had HIV
  • had hepatitis C
  • had syphilis
  • had human t-lymphotropic virus (HTLV)
  • injected yourself with drugs
  • worked as a commercial sex worker

Page last reviewed: 07/10/2014

Next review due: 07/10/2016

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Comments

The 7 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Combsy91 said on 29 July 2014

And why does this not inform you that if you have had all but a specific couple of cancers you cannot donate blood as though it is some sort of contagion. I think I'd rather take my chances with a persons blood who has had cancer but is out of their remission than die because of a shortage of blood!

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Drooby said on 09 July 2014

I too object to the fact that gay or bisexual men are not able to give blood unless they are long-term celibate. It's not required of heterosexuals. Is it perhaps that gay/bi men are renowned to be liars? Last time I looked at statistics gay/bi community used to be far more likely to be tested for sexual infections ... Oh, yes and it was the gay and bi community that first got it's head around HIV. In fact LGBT communities lead the way in sexual health. It aggrieves me that I cannot give blood and live as a gay man. As with the rest of society that means I have sex.

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Anonymous94 said on 03 July 2014

Can you give blood if you have had pneumonia or sepsis?

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Olican101 said on 19 December 2013

I am a gay male but me and my partner have only ever been sexually active with each other, we even still wear protection! why can i not donate blood? this is homophobia, plain and clear.

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thisstatementisfalse said on 15 October 2013

"As of November 2011, a man who has sex with men can donate blood provided they have not had anal or oral sex with a man during the past 12 months (even with a condom)."

It seems a little odd that as a gay man who has never had unsafe sex of any kind, has regular sexual health checkups, and no other populational risk factors, I am considered an "unsafe" source of blood compared to a hetero man who has frequent unsafe sex and has never had a sexual health test (who is far more likely to unknowingly have a blood-borne disease).

I'm even an O-negative, which there is never enough of because it's universally compatible in an emergency.

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Iamalbal said on 01 September 2013

"As of November 2011, a man who has sex with men can donate blood provided they have not had anal or oral sex with a man during the past 12 months (even with a condom)." Wow, it's 2013 and gay men are still being discriminated against? And even if they use a condom? This just sounds like plain homophobia to me.

I wholeheartedly agree with this. Can anyone give any facts and figures to support this? As a gay man myself with O blood type, I am constantly sent reminders I should be giving blood, which is quite possibly the most annoying thing possible.
Surely this should be reviewed in line with the organ donor policy whereas if a person has HIV or vCJD, they are unable to donate.
It is 2013.

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C_Rex said on 13 August 2013

"As of November 2011, a man who has sex with men can donate blood provided they have not had anal or oral sex with a man during the past 12 months (even with a condom)." Wow, it's 2013 and gay men are still being discriminated against? And even if they use a condom? This just sounds like plain homophobia to me.

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