Donation FAQs

Please use the FAQ below, as well as our eligibility page, to answer any common questions you may have about blood donation. If you still have questions, please reach out to our Donor Relations team at sbcsupport@stanford.edu or 650-736-7786, and they can either answer your question directly, or put you in contact with someone who can!

GENERAL

475 mL. or 1 pint. This is 8-10% of the total in your system.

A small percentage of all hospitalized patients (one in seven) receive blood transfusions. Leading users can include patients with cancer, heart disease, gastrointestinal disease, fractures and trauma, anemia, bone and joint abnormalities, organ transplants, and lung, liver and kidney disease.

Most people feel fine after donating. It is important to follow the instructions given to you to eat well, drink plenty of fluids and not over-exert yourself. Donors should not do heavy lifting or strenuous exercise, fly in airplanes or go scuba diving for a couple of days.

Donors ages 16-18 are eligible for a whole blood donation once every six months (180 days) or a double red blood cell donation (DRBC) once every 12 months (365 days). Donors 19 years of age or older are eligible for a whole blood donation every 56 days or a DRBC donation every four months.

Donors who give blood four times or more in a calendar year are eligible for our Four Seasons Donor Club and receive an attractive Four Seasons T-Shirt. Ask us about this when you donate!

You can prepare for donating by following a healthful, low fat diet and getting a good nights sleep.

Drink plenty of fluids starting the day before you donate, and do not skip any meals. If your red cell level is low, you can raise it by eating foods high in iron or by taking an iron supplement. Visit our Hemoglobin and Your Health and Iron and Blood Donation pages to learn more.

While there’s always a chance of having a rare reaction, typically the only discomfort you’d experience is just a pinch when the needle is first inserted, and potentially a bit of arm soreness after donation (though that’s not as common). Beyond that, it’s largely pain-free!

Unfortunately, we are not able to guarantee translation services in person at this time. However, if you’d like to schedule an appointment and request translation services, please call our Telerecruitment team at 888-723-7831. They will do their best to schedule you for a time when translation is available.

Information that specifically identifies you including name, donor identification number, contact information (phone, mailing and email addresses), driver’s license number and date of birth will not be provided to investigators. No personal health information will be disclosed outside of Stanford Blood Center unless required by law.

However, when you donate, your de-identified demographic and testing information may be used or disclosed in connection with research studies, including, but not limited to, blood type, infectious disease test results, gender, ethnicity and age.

For most people, the most relevant piece of information here is that you aren’t recommended to do strenuous exercise, including lift heavy objects, for 24 hours after donation while your body recovers. And, due to the loss of red cells, which helps carry oxygen throughout your body, you may feel slightly more fatigued and have a slightly reduced cardio capacity for a few days after donation.

One thing to keep in mind is that it can take the body about six or more weeks to fully restore the red cells lost during a whole blood donation, and even longer to replace the iron lost during donation. To ensure more rapid replacement of iron and hemoglobin, taking an iron supplement is recommended after blood donation. A 18–28mg dose of iron taken daily for 60 days is sufficient to replace the iron lost during a donation. For more information about iron and blood donation, please check here. For most donors, after a few days, enough red cells will have replenished for athletic performance to have returned closer to normal. However, for those who perform on a professional level, they may notice a slight change in performance until their red cells (and iron levels) have completely recovered.

Those who qualify to donate blood typically will donate about one pint, which, while helpful to patients in need, is not such a large loss that most people see a significant effect post-donation. Typically, the most noticeable effect is you may feel tired for a day or two after donation as your body works to replenish red cells and iron. For this reason, it’s important to take a supplement post-donation (which is preferred to simply eating increased iron) if you are able. There are also benefits to having your blood drawn, such as potentially lowering high blood pressure and burning calories, as outlined in our earlier article, part 1, “Does Blood Donation?”. 

While most blood donors give whole blood, donors never really call for whole blood to be transfused. Rather, they call for specific components of the blood — either red cells, platelets or plasma (which make up about 45%, less than 1%, and 55% of whole blood, respectively) — depending on what the patient needs. When a person donates whole blood, they give all of these components together, which can then be separated in the lab and used to create three separate products, with the possibility of being transfused to three separate patients!

At Stanford Blood Center, though, we actually have a way for you to help even more patients with one donation: through research! While not all parts of your donation can be transfused to patients — namely white cells — they can be useful for researchers looking for cures and therapies to save patients in the future. SBC tries to save as much of the typically unused part of donation as possible to prepare for researchers in our area.

Absolutely! All blood being transfused to patients is tested for a number of viruses/diseases that may harm the patient, including hepatitis C, HIV and syphilis. A full list of what we test for can be found here.

While blood donations are tested for HIV and syphilis due to their potential harm to patients, generally speaking, no. To receive comprehensive STD testing, you should consult your primary physician. Individuals should never donate blood as a way of receiving an HIV or syphilis test.

No, you cannot get AIDS from donating blood. All of the equipment used for the donation process is sterile, disposable, and used only one time and then discarded. There is no danger of contracting any infectious disease by donating blood.

The first thing to note is that you’ll receive some blood testing as a result of your donation. All blood donations are screened for a number of transfusion-transmitted diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis. (See the full list here.) If you test positive for any of these, we will remove your donated unit and notify you so you know to follow up with a doctor if needed. In general, though, if you’re planning on having a blood panel done by your physician, it’s best to wait after donating blood since certain levels, such as your hemoglobin, clotting factor, platelets and blood volume will be lowered for a brief period. Ask your doctor how long they’d like you to wait to get the most accurate results.

Yes! Although, it’s not quite a “get fit quick” solution. According to research by UC San Diego, you can burn up to 650 calories per pint of blood donated as your body works to build back up your blood volume and create other blood components. Though this calorie burning takes place over the course of multiple weeks, we won’t bat an eye if you want to use it as an excuse to eat even more cookies in the canteen post-donation!

While your donation is invaluable to patients, unfortunately, its value does not translate to any sort of tax deduction at this time — though this is being considered in the California legislature.

Though blood donors have been recognized as having lower cholesterol as a group, more research is needed to determine whether blood donation is the cause of this trend.

While this area is still being researched, the prevailing opinion right now is, yes! Regular donation in hypertensive individuals is believed to help reduce blood pressure. Giving blood decreases blood volume in your circulatory system (since you’ve just donated some of it!), thereby decreasing blood pressure and associated risks like forming blood clots.

ELIGIBILITY

Most people can. In general, anyone who is at least 17 years of age and in good health and weighs 110 lbs. or more is eligible to donate. Donors age 16 may donate donate blood with a parent/guardian’s consent.

You may NOT donate if you have had hepatitis, have a current heart condition other than a murmur, or have engaged in activities that may put you at risk for AIDS.

You will be temporarily deferred if you have acute symptomatic flu, cold, or upper respiratory infection, have had close contact with a person with hepatitis in the last 12 months, have an active infection requiring medication, have been pregnant within the last six weeks, have traveled to a malarial zone in the last three months, or if tests indicate your red cell level is too low. Additional restrictions for travel, recent U.S. residence and medications may apply. Review stanfordbloodcenter.org/eligibility or call us at 888-723-7831 to inquire about deferrals.

Six weeks! If you received a transfusion as part of your delivery, though, you may have a longer deferral. Call us at 650- 725-7336 for more information.

Yes. It’s best to donate once your milk supply is well established — typically after a couple of months after you begin breastfeeding.

Yes! As long as the tattoo has completely healed by the time you donate, and you were inked in a CA-licensed facility, there’s no deferral. Short, temporary deferrals do exists for tattoos from non-licensed facilities or outside of CA, which you can read about here.

There is no deferral for smoking cigarettes, cigars or other tobacco products. Similarly, there’s no deferral for smoking weed — you just have to make sure you aren’t high at the time of donation!

While we appreciate your eagerness to donate — sniffles and all! — we require that all donors be healthy the day of their donation for their own wellbeing as well as to prevent the spread of any illness to others donating or working at the same location that day. Rest up, and we’ll see you back soon!

Believe it or not, most medications, even those prescribed by a doctor, actually are not a cause for deferral! You can find the full list of medications that would prevent you from donating on our website here.

To donate, your blood pressure has to be below 180 systolic (first number) and below 100 diastolic (second number). So, those who have high blood pressure but are managing with medication would be allowed to donate.

Yes, so long as you aren’t having a symptom outbreak/episode currently, and you haven’t taken an antiviral treatment as a result of an outbreak in the past 48 hours. Antivirals to prevent an outbreak are not cause for deferral.

Yes! People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are eligible to give blood, so long as they are otherwise healthy and are closely monitoring and maintaining their blood sugar levels. Medication for managing diabetes is also not cause for deferral.

Anemia is noted by a low level of hemoglobin. To donate blood, you have to meet a certain lower level of hemoglobin so that we know it’s safe for you to donate that day. If you often experience anemia but have it under control by taking iron supplements and/or eating iron-rich foods, you will likely be able to meet this lower level requirement and are welcome to donate!

We are truly thankful for those who want to give back to other patients after recovering from cancer! In fact, most individuals who’ve completed treatment and have been cancer-free for a year are eligible to donate, though anyone who has had blood cancers, which includes leukemia, lymphomas and multiple myeloma (and any other hematologic malignancy), are unfortunately permanently deferred. If you have questions, we encourage you to contact our Resource Nurse to go over your particular situation and see if you’re eligible: 650- 725-7336.

Absolutely! If someone has been deferred or can’t give blood for any reason, they can still make an impact in a number of ways:

Visit our website at stanfordbloodcenter.org/get-involved for more information.

COVID-19

Common symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, among others. These symptoms will vary person to person, though most individuals with coronavirus will experience mild to moderate symptoms that do not require hospitalization. To view the full list of symptoms, view the CDC website.

Even during the pandemic, individuals in our community — potentially even individuals we know personally — will continue to be in car accidents, need emergency organ transplants, give birth to babies in critical condition and need chemotherapy. In short, there will still be lives that need saving.

We understand that this is a stressful time and want to assure you that we are taking your health and wellness very seriously. All of our practices are designed with this in mind, and additional policies have been implemented as an extra precaution. (See “What measures is SBC taking to ensure donor safety?” below.)

SBC is accepting walk-ins. However, we recommend that you make an appointment ahead of time to ensure you do not experience extended wait times. If you are having trouble finding an appointment time, we encourage you to call our Telerecruitment team at 888-723-7831.

COVID-19 does not pose any special risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives. Blood donation is a safe process, and we have implemented additional safety precautions at this time.

Please keep in mind that, since blood donors must be healthy and without fever on the day of donation, the risk of exposure to a sick person is lower at a blood drive.

  • As always, all of our equipment during the donation process is sterilized, and most is single-use only.
  • Hand sanitizers are placed throughout donation sites.
  • All donor areas, including the reception/waiting area, canteen, history booths and donation chairs are cleaned frequently.
  • We have increased spacing between donors in the canteen to the extent possible.
  • SBC team members wear face masks while interacting with donors during the entire donation process. All donors, volunteers and team members are required to wear a new, disposable face covering (provided by SBC) each day they come to a donation site.
  • SBC team members at all of our collection sites are fully vaccinated (with boosters) against COVID-19.
  • SBC is continuing to strictly enforce the policy that team members must NOT report to work if they are feeling unwell.
  • Per our usual policy, anyone who comes to donate is required to be feeling healthy and well; donors are asked to read a list of COVID-19 symptoms upon entry to a donation location and to report if they are experiencing any of the symptoms. If they report that they are, they will kindly be asked to leave by our registrars for the safety of others onsite.
    • Symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea and vomiting and diarrhea.
  • All donors are asked if they are feeling well on their donor history questionnaire as soon as they register and are not permitted to stay and donate if they report any symptoms of illness.
  • Per our usual policy, any person who wants to donate blood must have their temperature taken before they donate and is not permitted to stay and donate if they have a fever.
  • Donors are not eligible to donate if they have any risk factors for coronavirus, such as close contact with a person with coronavirus in the past 14 days.

All donors, volunteers and team members are required to wear a new, disposable face covering (provided by SBC) each day they come to a donation site. We recommend that donors bring their own N95/KN95 masks to wear during donation, if they have them available.

Assuming you are feeling well afterwards, there is no deferral for receiving an authorized or licensed COVID-19 vaccine. This includes the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. However, if you received an experimental vaccine as part of a clinical trial, you will be deferred for 56 days.

Basic COVID-19 deferrals are as follows:

  • 14-day deferral for exposure to someone diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19.
  • 28-day deferral after recovery (28 days symptom-free) if you were diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19
  • 56-day deferral if you received an experimental vaccine as part of a clinical trial
    • (Per the above, there is no deferral for receiving a vaccine that has been authorized/licensed, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.)
  • Temporary deferral for anyone with a pending diagnostic test for COVID-19
  • Anyone who has been asked to quarantine by doctors or local officials for participation in high risk activities

We encourage anyone who falls into the above categories and has questions to call our Resource Nurse at 650-725-7336  to discuss their eligibility.

If you have recently donated blood and any of the aforementioned scenarios apply, please call our Post-Donation Callback Line at 650-725-9968 immediately so we can evaluate your previous donations.

Learn more about our deferral policies by clicking here.

We really appreciate your concern! The first thing to note is that respiratory viruses are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there is no evidence to-date that SARS-CoV-2 can be transfusion-transmitted. That said, routine blood donor evaluation will help prevent individuals with respiratory infections from donating. Blood donors must be healthy and have no symptoms of illness or fever on the day of donation (we take temperature on site, per our usual policy). In addition, we are taking extra precautions for COVID-19 and have in place deferrals for close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

If you ever do start to develop symptoms, we have a Post-Donation Callback Line that you can call after your donation, and we will immediately perform the appropriate follow-up. This goes for any illness.

If you are not experiencing any symptoms of illness and have not had any known exposure, we would love for you to come donate! We and patients in our community hospitals that need blood transfusions appreciate your willingness to donate.

When cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. were still low, SBC did implement a deferral for travel to high-risk areas internationally. However, as the global health situation has evolved, we no longer feel that international travel history is an effective way to assess COVID-19 infection risk. In accordance with updated FDA recommendations, on May 28, 2020, SBC eliminated COVID-19-related travel deferrals.

As of October 16, 2020, SBC is no longer testing all donations for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. For a full assessment of previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2, please consult your primary physician.

The CDC has provided criteria to guide lab testing for COVID-19. Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is not performed at Stanford Blood Center.

Yes. Team members at all of our collection sites are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have had booster shots.

During the early height of the pandemic, Stanford Blood Center established a convalescent plasma program that involved taking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients and transfusing that plasma into hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the hopes that the antibodies present in the donated plasma would help save the lives of the recipients. Due to a decrease in the need for convalescent plasma, we are no longer recruiting for this program.