Breaking Down Blood Donation Myths Again

This blog post comes to us from Team Captain, Nathan Bauman.

When thinking about donating blood, a lot of people are usually quite skeptical to the idea because they have a minor condition or issue they think will prohibit them from donating. Most of the time, the medications, areas of travel, or certain conditions actually don’t defer the person from donating. As most of you are probably aware, there are quite a few myths about donating blood that I think need some clarifying.

Busting Blood Donor Myths

  • Just because you have traveled out of the country doesn’t mean you are deferred.Common travel sites and areas that are frequently visited usually have no deferral attached to the location, but some locations that have unusually high malaria risks are usually deferrals. A lot of people who are frequent travelers are generally under the impression that when you travel to a specific location, you are not allowed to donate ever again (or at least for an extended amount of time). As stated earlier, most locations have no deferral time. For example, a common misconception is that when traveling to any part of Africa, you are deferred for at least a year. In reality, only some parts of Africa have a deferral time attached to them. One particular country that almost always throws donors off is the country of Algeria. Located in the northern part of Africa, Algeria is a large country of roughly 40 million people and is a somewhat frequent travel area. To someone who may not know the ins and outs of the medical book that is used for donating blood, they would think that since it is located in Africa, there is a deferral. However, there is no wait time to donate blood after traveling to Algeria.
  • In many cases, you can still donate blood if you are a cancer survivor. Another misconception about donating blood that carries an extremely heavy weight is the unfortunate contraction of cancers of many different kinds. As terrible and life-threatening as cancer can be, for the most part, there is only a one-year deferral. When undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments, such as radiation, donating blood is not an option. In the medical book that determines if one is eligible to donate blood, ALL cancers except for lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkin’s disease carry a deferral of only one year. As long as the treatments for the cancer have been successful, and it has been more than 12 months, a donor that has had cancer is eligible to donate. For those three mentioned above, there is an indefinite deferral unfortunately.
  • Blood pressure medications do not defer donors from donating their blood. When recruiting donors in most if not all of the programs we call, the most controversial subject that I face on a daily basis is the ever common thought that, “I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, I can’t donate.” Most donors who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol are under the impression that they are not allowed to donate due to the medications they are taking. A copious amount of the donors that I speak to on a regular basis that have those common issues are unaware that they are actually eligible to donate as long as their blood pressure or cholesterol is at a safe level on the day of donation. The medications that the donors are actually taking carry no deferral period. However, if the donor’s blood pressure is too high or too low on the day of donation, they will be deferred until the preceding time they attempt to donate. For anyone who has a question about the blood pressure requirements (just so you have the information), the requirements are as follow: below 180 systolic (first number) and below 100 diastolic (second number) at the time of donation.

Now, as you can see, and as you can imagine, these are just a few of the common myths about donating blood that usually scare a person away from becoming a donor. Most issues and common concerns that inhabit the minds of the common donor are actually nothing more than a myth that they may have heard from someone or read somewhere that is not credible. If you are interested in donating and think that there may be a condition that you have, a place you may have traveled, or a medication you are taking that could defer you, contact your local blood center to make sure.

You may be quite surprised when you find out that you’re able to donate!