Who can donate blood? 

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

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.

Page last reviewed: 07/10/2014

Next review due: 07/10/2016