Blood Donation Barriers

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Donating blood saves lives. Patients the world over, who suffer from a multitude of conditions, need blood. The blood transfusion process seems pretty simple, right? Just take one person’s blood and stick in the veins of another person. Wrong. Blood transfusion is complex, and without proper safeguards, the process would be incredible risky. In fact, blood transfusions used to be so risky that before the discovery of blood types, transfusions were only practiced by quacks and truly desperate physicians.Blood transfusions are safe today, but doctors still take many precautions. Not everyone is eligible to donate blood. What are things today that prevent a would-be blood donor from participating in this life-saving process? Read on to find out about a few of the blood donation barriers.

Travel to Certain Countries

Like people, diseases love to travel. And like people, diseases love to travel with people. The ease with which human beings can hop from country to country these days—wake up in Boston and hitch a ride to Sydney in less than a day—may make vacationers are businessmen happy, but this constant border-crossing makes public health officials terrified. Because diseases can so easily hitch rides on people and end up in entirely new environments, health experts now have to face the fact that any disease—from anywhere in the word, and no matter how rare—could suddenly pop up next door. When West Nile Virus showed up in the United States, epidemiologists were mystified: how could such an obscure and localized disease from the northwest of Africa infect the US so quickly?


Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are screening for malaria. Malaria is a nasty bug that’s been terrorising most of the world for as long as anyone can remember. If you’ve recently traveled to a country with significant malaria rates, you probably won’t be eligible to donate blood.

Lifestyle Choices

Many blood-borne pathogens are transmitted through human habits. People who participate in high risk habits, which can spread and grow these pathogens, will not be able to give blood. Health experts change their lists of high risk behaviors from time to time, so it’s worth giving their websites and guidelines a review every once in a while to see if anything has changed. (Some guidelines are very controversial, and they are pushed to have them overturned very often.)


People who regularly take intravenous drugs are considered high risk in most countries, and will likely be ineligible. As will anyone who has had or who has been exposed to HIV. Tattoos are often grounds for ineligibility because needles pierce skin and could spread blood-borne disease.  


Would-be donors who have been exposed to certain diseases will be prevented from donations. Disease can be a tricky thing to kill off completely, and physicians and nurses are justifiably concerned that even a cured disease may be hiding in the blood somewhere.


Many diseases will also make it difficult or impossible for someone to give blood. In the United Kingdom, occasional scares of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease have given health experts nightmares, and any exposure at all to this degenerative illness will prevent donations.


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