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  • Valerie Smith, APRN

Can You Donate Blood If You Have a Rheumatic Disease



Did you know that every two seconds someone needs blood and/or platelets in the United States?


In fact, approximately 29,000 units of red blood cells, almost 5,000 units of platelets, and nearly 6.500 units of plasma are needed every day in the United States.


Since blood and platelets cannot be artificially manufactured, there is always a constant need for blood donations. Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible to donate blood.


Donors must meet certain criteria in order to donate blood. Specific restrictions are in place to protect the health, safety, and well-being of both the individual receiving the donated blood and the person giving the blood.


What are the eligibility requirements to be a blood donor, particularly for an individual with a rheumatic disease?


In honor of National Blood Donor Month this January, let’s discuss what you need to know about donating blood when you have a rheumatic disease.


Restrictions and Requirements


First, it is important to remember that there are numerous blood donation agencies within the United States, and every organization might have unique guidelines.


Considering that the American Red Cross “collects, processes and distributes about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply,” we will go over their donor criteria, although many organizations have similar requirements.


To be an eligible donor for the basic “whole blood donation,” you must:

  • be at least 17 years old to donate blood (some states allow a 16-year-old to donate with a parent’s consent)

  • weigh a minimum of 110 pounds

  • have not donated blood in the prior 56 days


AND …


  • “be in good health and feeling well”


What exactly does this requirement mean? The American Red Cross explains:

“Healthy means that you feel well and can perform normal activities. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, healthy also means that you are being treated and the condition is under control. If you are not feeling well on the day of your donation, please contact us to reschedule … Most chronic illnesses are acceptable as long as you feel well, the condition is under control, and you meet all other eligibility requirements.”


How a Rheumatic Disease Could Disqualify You


The fact that someone is diagnosed with a chronic illness, such as a rheumatic disease, does not disqualify a donor in and of itself.


It’s everything else that comes along with a rheumatic disease that could potentially disqualify a person from being able to donate blood, such as:

  • Medications

  • Antibiotics

  • Immunosuppressive drugs

  • Surgical implants

  • Chronic infections

  • Active infections

  • Immunizations/Vaccinations

  • Blood thinners

  • Anemia


Having a rheumatic disease can lead to other health concerns, and it’s those other factors that would make a person ineligible to donate.


For example, many patients with a rheumatic disease are anemic, and iron-deficiency anemia is a common reason why people cannot donate blood.


As explained by the American Red Cross: “The Red Cross checks your hemoglobin before every donation to ensure that you are healthy enough to donate. Hemoglobin is a protein that contains iron and carries oxygen to the tissues in your body. Iron is essential to help your body to replace new red blood cells lost through blood donations.”


It’s Worth Looking Into!


There will always be a need for blood donors. Research shows a rough 3% of age-eligible men and women in the United States end up donating blood every year.


Donors are in high demand, and having a rheumatic disease does not automatically disqualify you from donating.


On the other hand, it is critically important that you are 100% open and honest with any blood donation agency about your past and present medical history. For your own safety and for the safety of the individuals that might receive your blood, you must be prepared to disclose those necessary details.




As part of the blood donation process, you will be asked to provide information about the medications you currently take or have recently been on. If you are a patient at Paducah Rheumatology, our patient portal and free mobile app are excellent resources where you can obtain all the information you need about any prescribed medications you’ve received from our healthcare providers.


If you are not a patient at Paducah Rheumatology, we’d love to get to know you and help you manage your rheumatic disease.


We are accepting new patients with a submitted physician’s referral. Give us a call at 270-408-6100 to set up an appointment.


*The information and statistics shared in this blog were obtained from the American Red Cross website.

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