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Can You Donate Blood or Plasma if You Have Diabetes?

Medically reviewed by Angelica Balingit, M.D.
Posted on August 15, 2023

Have you ever considered donating your blood to a local blood bank? It’s like giving the gift of life to someone in need. However, the American Red Cross is serious about safety. They have strict guidelines so that everyone stays healthy. When it comes to donating blood, they want to be sure you’re in good shape. If you are living with type 2 diabetes, you may wonder whether you’re allowed to donate plasma or whole blood.

In this article, we’ll explain some of the rules regarding who is allowed to give blood and how that might relate to someone living with diabetes.

General Requirements for Whole Blood and Plasma Donation

The American Red Cross checks possible donors to make sure they don’t have infections, are at least 17 years old, and weigh at least 110 pounds. They have a list of things they check before you can donate, like the medicine you take, allergies, and bleeding problems, and you can find these rules on their website.

Below are some guidelines that may be relevant to people with diabetes and commonly related conditions, including heart disease and high blood pressure. Before going to give blood, make sure that you meet the requirements.

Aspirin Use

If you are donating platelets, you cannot take aspirin for at least two days beforehand. Aspirin and other blood thinners, often used to prevent blood clotting, lead to easy bleeding and bruising. One DiabetesTeam member asked, “Does anyone else bruise or bleed at their injection site?” If you are prone to easy bleeding, ask your doctor for medical advice before donating blood.

Blood Pressure

You are allowed to donate blood as long as your blood pressure is below 180/100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and above 90/50 mm Hg on the day of donation. During the pre-donation physical exam, the medical team will take your blood pressure and other measurements before allowing you to donate.

Heart Disease

There are some restrictions on giving blood if you are living with heart disease. However, people who have not had any heart disease symptoms (such as heart attack or chest pain) in the last 6 months are eligible to donate.

Weight

Although you must be at least 110 pounds to donate blood, there are no upper weight limits for blood donation. As long as your weight is not higher than the weight limit of the donor bed you are using, you may donate blood.

Chronic Health Conditions

Most chronic (long-term) health conditions do not disqualify you from donating as long as you feel well. If you are feeling sick for any reason, push back your appointment to another day — there will always be an opportunity to give blood.

Can People With Diabetes Donate Blood?

In the United States, having well-controlled diabetes should not disqualify you from donating blood. According to the Red Cross, people with well-controlled diabetes who are on insulin or other oral diabetes medications are eligible to donate whole blood or plasma. The Red Cross doesn’t differentiate between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also says that those with diabetes that is under control, with or without medications, are eligible to donate. They do not specify an exact hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) or blood glucose value that is considered “well controlled,” so this might depend on how you report your diabetes management, as well as the physical exam you receive before blood donation.

However, in some other countries, people with diabetes have more restrictions on blood donation. For example, the NHS of the United Kingdom disqualifies those who take insulin from donating blood. People with type 2 diabetes must manage their condition with diet, exercise, and/or oral medications rather than insulin to be eligible for blood donation. It is very important to stick to your treatment plan as prescribed by your health care provider, even if it means you can’t donate blood in your country.

Blood Donation Safety for People With Diabetes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works with the Red Cross to set eligibility requirements to ensure that blood donation is safe for both the donor and receiver. This partnership means taking the health of the blood or plasma donor into account, undergoing a pre-donation physical exam, and using sterile equipment and trained staff. Therefore, blood donation is generally safe for people with diabetes who are in good health.

Before giving blood, make sure you’re feeling well and continue to take your medications as prescribed. Take your blood sugar levels as usual to make sure you are in a normal range. Drink an extra 2 cups (16 ounces) of water before you go to the donation center. Eat a healthy meal, and avoid processed foods high in sugar and fat. After you donate, you may be offered sugary snacks and drinks, such as cookies and orange juice. You can ask your doctor about what to eat after donating blood if you’re not sure.

One important consideration for people living with diabetes who wish to donate blood is the risk of their HbA1c level appearing falsely low at their next blood test. This reading might make your diabetes seem more in control than it actually is, potentially misleading your doctor. At your next physical exam, let your doctor know if you have recently given blood.

Not Eligible To Donate?

Donating blood is a selfless act, and it can be frustrating when you want to donate but are not eligible. If you’d like to donate blood but aren’t sure if you fit the criteria, ask your medical team. They can help you determine if your diabetes is well controlled enough to safely give blood. If you need to reduce your blood glucose levels and HbA1c level in order to donate, this is one of many reasons to work with your doctor to get your diabetes in check with diabetes care and lifestyle changes.

If you can’t give blood because of other preexisting medical conditions or a medication that you are taking, there are many other ways to get involved. Consider donating money to a local blood bank, volunteering at a blood drive, or spreading the word in your community.

Talk With Others Who Understand

DiabetesTeam is the social network for people with diabetes and their loved ones. On DiabetesTeam, more than 132,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with diabetes.

Have you ever given blood while living with diabetes? Do you have any tips for other members of DiabetesTeam? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on August 15, 2023
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Angelica Balingit, M.D. is a specialist in internal medicine, board certified since 1996. Learn more about her here.
Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H. is a medical student at George Washington University and a former Fulbright research scholar in Durban, South Africa. Learn more about her here.

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