Find answers to frequently asked questions about the donation process, donor eligibility and The Blood Center here.
Click on a topic below to jump to that section.
Find answers to frequently asked questions about the donation process, donor eligibility and The Blood Center here.
Click on a topic below to jump to that section.
Why should I give blood?
Medical technology has provided many life-saving discoveries over the years, but there is still no substitute for blood. In a medical emergency, often the most important element is the availability of blood. Blood donations can help a variety of individuals: trauma victims, surgery patients, premature babies, individuals with anemia, cancer patients and many more.
Who can donate?
All potential donors must be at least 17 years old to donate, 16 with parental consent.
I heard that 16-year-olds can now donate blood. Is that true?
Yes. Individuals who are 16 years old and 122 pounds (with parental consent), or at least 17 years old and 110 pounds, and are in general good health can donate blood. If your son or daughter is 16 years old and has expressed interest in donating blood, but was not old enough, now could be their opportunity. By becoming a blood donor your son or daughter is showing great civic responsibility, maturity and a sense of community pride. Through their blood donation, your son or daughter has the potential to save up to three lives!
How do I make an appointment to donate blood?
Are there any special instructions I should follow before donating whole blood?
You should eat a good meal that includes iron-rich foods – like red meat; green, leafy vegetables; and iron-fortified cereals – and drink plenty of fluids one to two hours before donating blood.
What can I eat to raise my iron levels?
Best sources of iron:
Other good sources:
What form of identification (ID) is needed to donate?
The following forms of ID will be accepted:
Can you explain the blood donation process?
Donating blood takes less than one hour from the time you arrive until you are ready to leave. First you complete a registration form with basic information such as your name, address and birthdate. You also will present identification that shows your name and your photo or signature. Then, one of our medical professionals will check your blood pressure, temperature and hemoglobin level (iron); take a look at your arm to make sure it is clear of any signs of infection; and ask you confidential questions about your health to ensure that you are eligible to donate blood that day. The actual whole blood donation takes between five and 10 minutes. Afterwards, you will be given juice and light snacks to replenish lost fluids during donation.
What is considered normal and high blood pressure?
Blood pressure levels available here.
How much blood is taken?
A unit (about one pint) of blood is drawn. This procedure takes about five to 10 minutes. The average person has between 8 and 12 pints of blood in their body. It takes about one month to replace the blood that is donated.
How long does it take?
How will I feel after I donate?
Most people feel fine after donating blood. A unit of blood (500 ml) is less than a pint, and the average adult body contains 10 to 12 pints of blood. Your body makes new blood constantly, and the fluid you give will be replaced within hours. Eating a full meal within four hours before donating will help you feel strong after donating. Drinking water and juices before and after donating also helps your body replenish lost fluids. You should avoid alcohol before and after donating. Strenuous activity should be avoided for 12 hours after donating. If you have a hazardous or strenuous job, you should donate at the end of your work shift. Smokers should refrain from smoking 30 minutes after donating.
How often can I donate?
Giving whole blood requires a waiting period of 56 days between donations; however, all we ask is for individuals to Commit for Life and donate once every quarter. If you donate plasma (your red cells are returned to you), you may donate every 28 days. If you donate platelets (your red cells and most of your plasma are returned to you), you may donate every seven days, with a maximum of 24 times per year.
If you are type A blood you would make a terrific platelet donor! It takes a little more time, but it helps people who are quite ill.
Remember, type AB blood makes good plasma donors, and type O and B blood make good red cell or whole blood donors.
If you donate double red cells (most of your plasma is returned to you), you must wait 112 days before your next donation. Double red cell donors must meet certain weight, height and hemoglobin (iron) requirements.
How long will it take to replenish the pint of blood I donate?
Your body will replace the blood volume (plasma) within 48 hours. It will take four to eight weeks for your body to completely replace the red blood cells you donated. The average adult has eight to 12 pints of blood. You will not notice any physical changes related to the pint you donated.
What happens to my blood after I donate?
Your blood will be tested for various infectious agents, including HIV and hepatitis. It will then be processed into components (red cells, platelets, plasma). After processing, red cells can be stored for 42 days, platelets can be stored for five days and plasma can be frozen for one year. Your single unit of blood can help save the lives of up to three separate patients.
Click on the topic that applies to you to find out if you can donate.
If you have a question about whether or not you can donate that isn't answered here, please call (713) 790-1200 or email us. We will respond to your email within 24 hours, during regular business hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
I have traveled outside the U.S.
NEW! Visiting a malaria-risk area for less than 24 hours (such as on a cruise) is now acceptable and will not defer you from donating. Expand this FAQ for details.
This list is NOT a complete list of countries, just the most visited countries. If the country that you have visited is not listed, you may call (713) 791-6612 or (713) 791-6608 or email Medical Services.
Algeria - No deferral.
Botswana - Gaborone and Francistown – No deferral. All other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.
Kenya - All at risk including game parks except for no risk in the city of Nairobi. One-year deferral from date of return for travel outside of Nairobi for more than 24 hours.
Nigeria - Not eligible for one year after return.
South Africa - Large cities such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth - No deferral. Game parks, provinces of Northern, NE Kwa Zula-Natal, Mpumalanga Provinces - Not eligible for one year after return.
Tanzania - Not eligible for one year after return.
Uganda - Not eligible for one year after return.
Belize City and islands frequented by tourists or offshore cruise excursions in risk areas for less than 24 hours - No deferral.
All other areas outside of Belize City (including Mayan ruins and river tubing) - Not eligible for one year after return.
Bahamas - No deferral.
Honduras - Cities of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa or Island of Roatan for less than 24 hours - No deferral. Other areas or Island of Roatan for more than 24 hours - Not eligible for one year after return.
Cruises visiting a port located in a malaria-risk area for less than 24 hours - No deferral.
Large cities and typical tourist areas including Yangtze River cruise - No deferral.
Travel to rural, non-tourist areas - Not eligible for one year after return.
Bogotá and Cartagena – No deferral. All other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.
Large cities in central highlands (Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca) and Galapagos Islands are acceptable - No deferral.
No deferral unless stayed for more than 6 months associated with the military between 1980 and 1996 or stayed for more than 5 years from 1980 to the present.
United Kingdom - No deferral unless stayed for more than 3 months between 1980 and 1996 or more than 5 years since 1980 to present.
Cayenne and Devil’s Island – No deferral. All other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.
Large cities including Antigua, Quiche, Quetzaltenango, Chimaltango, Huehuetenago, San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala City and around Lake Atitlan - No deferral.
Risk in rural areas - Not eligible for 12 months after return.
Not eligible for 12 months after return.
Large cities such as Jakarta, Singapore, Medan, Palembang, Balikpapan, Pekanbaru, Surakarta, Ubud, Yogyakarta and resorts of Bali and Java or less than 24 hours in rural area - No deferral.
Travel to rural areas for more than 24 hours – Not eligible for 12 months after return.
Acapulco - No deferral.
Cabo San Lucas - No deferral.
Calica - No deferral.
Cozumel - No deferral.
Isla Mujeres - No deferral.
Oaxaca - No deferral.
Playa del Carmen - No deferral.
Progresso - No deferral.
Puerto Vallarta - No deferral.
Not eligible for one year after return.
Panama City and Canal Zone area is acceptable.
Travel to other areas - Not eligible for one year after return.
Ica, Lima, Arequipa, Puno, Tacna Moquegua, Chincha Alta, Pisco, Nazca, Arequipa, Moquegua, Puno, Tacna and highland tourist areas of Cuzco and Machu Picchu, coastal areas south of Lima and Lake Titicaca, or travel outside of these areas for less than 24 hours – No deferral.
Other areas – Not eligible for one year after return.
Large cities - No deferral. Rural areas - Not eligible for one year after return.
Cities of Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Taif, Riyadh, Al Jubayl, Ad Damman, Dhahran and Salwa - No deferral.
Travel in Al Bahah, Al Madinah, Asir, Jizan, Makkah, Najran and Tabuk provinces - Not eligible for one year after return.
Large cities along coast, such as Caracas, Maracaibo, Petare, Puerto Cabello, Maracay, Margarita Island and Valencia or less than 24 hours to other areas - No deferral.
Travel to rural areas and provinces along borders of Columbia, Guyana and Brazil - Not be eligible for one year after return.
I have a tattoo or body piercing.
Tattoos, acupuncture (licensed practitioner), ear piercings (sterile gun) and all other body part piercings applied in state-licensed facility – you must wait one week from date of application.
Any of the above procedures applied by self, an unlicensed individual or a facility that is not state-licensed – you must wait one year from date of application.
I am taking medication.
Find the medication you are looking for and read the comments for that medication.
|Absorica||Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose|
|Accutane||Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose|
|Anxiety medication||You can donate|
|Antibiotics||You can donate two days after your last dose|
|Antibiotics for acne or preventative for urinary track infection/gum disease||You can donate|
|Anticonvulsant (no seizures for 1 year)||You can donate|
|Antidepressants||You can donate|
|Analgesics - Aspirin, Pain Relievers||If medication does not contain aspirin you may donate. If medication contains aspirin, you can donate whole blood or plasma; wait three days after last dose to donate platelets.|
|Antacids - (i.e. Tums, Prilosec)||You can donate|
|Aspirin||You can donate whole blood or plasma; wait three days after last dose to donate platelets|
|Asthma medication (no attack requiring ER visit in past 30 days)||You can donate|
|Anti-Fungal for localized skin/nails/vagina||You can donate|
|Anti-Histamine (no or mild symptoms)||You can donate|
|Avodart||Cannot donate or must wait six months from last dose|
|Birth control pills||You can donate|
|Brilinta (ticagrelor) and Effient (prasugrel)||You may not donate platelets until 14 days from your last dose.|
|Blood thinners: Coumadin, Warfilone (warfarin), Jantoven, Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate), Xarelto (rivaroxaban), Lovenox (heparin)||Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose|
|Blood thinners: Plavix (Clopidogrel), Ticlid (Ticlopidine)||Can donate whole blood or plasma; wait fourteen days after last dose to donate platelets|
|Cholesterol medication||You can donate|
|Decongestant (no symptoms)||You can donate|
|Diet pill||You can donate|
|Diuretic||You can donate unless taking it for Congestive Heart Failure, then Indefinite Deferral|
|Dutasteride (Avodart)||Cannot donate for six months from last dose|
|Female hormones||You can donate|
|Finasteride (Proscar/Propecia)||Cannot donate for one month from last dose|
|Growth hormones before 1985||You cannot donate|
|Guardasil (Human Papilloma Virus)||You can donate|
|Female hormones||You can donate|
|Insulin (U.S. licensed)||You can donate|
|Insulin (beef/bovine obtained outside of the U.S.)||Cannot donate at any time|
|Isoretinoin (Accutane, Amnesteem, Claravis or Sotret)||Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose|
Cannot donate for six months from last dose
|Propecia||Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose|
|Proscar||Cannot donate or must wait one month from last dose|
|Sleeping pill||You can donate|
|Soriatane (acitretin)||Cannot donate or must wait three years from last dose|
|Steroids (oral)||You can donate|
|Steroids (topical)||You can donate|
|Tegison (etretinate)||Cannot donate at any time|
|Tranquilizers||You can donate|
|Thyroid medication||You can donate|
|Unlicensed drug (research study)||You must wait 30 days from your last dose before you can donate.|
|Vitamins/ Herbal Supplements||You can donate|
I recently had a shot, vaccination or immunization.
Find the shot/vaccination you are looking for and read the comments for that shot/vaccination.
|Allergy shot||You can donate|
|Botox injection||You must wait two days before you can donate|
|Chickenpox (varicella-zoster) vaccination||You must wait four weeks before you can donate|
|Flu shot (including H1N1) or FluMist||You can donate|
|Gamma Globulin – HBIG (exposure to hepatitis)||You must wait one year before you can donate|
|Gardasil (human papillomavirus)||You can donate|
|Havrix (hepatitis A vaccine)||You can donate|
|Heptavax (hepatitis B vaccine)||You must wait four weeks before you can donate|
|Meningitis||You can donate|
|Novocaine||You can donate|
|Polio||You can donate|
|Pneumonia vaccination||You can donate|
|Rabies (animal bite)||You can donate|
|Routine TB test||You can donate|
|Shingles vaccination||You must wait four weeks before you can donate|
|Steroid injection (joint)||You can donate if given for pain or inflammation. You must wait one month if given for infection.|
|Steroid injection (intramuscular)||You must wait three days after the shot before you can donate|
|TB test for exposure||You must wait three days or until the test has been read to donate|
|Tetanus Booster||You can donate|
Avodart (dutasteride) was approved on October 10, 2002, and became available for prescription in December of 2002. Like Proscar (finasteride), it is for the treatment of symptomatic benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) in men. However, it is considerably more potent. You must wait 6 months after your last dose before you can donate.
I recently had surgery or a skin graft.
Find the surgery or the skin graft you are looking for and read the comments for that operation.
|Surgery or Skin Graft||Comments|
|Major surgery performed in hospital/surgery clinic (no blood used)||You can donate if you have resumed normal activities|
|Major surgery performed in hospital/surgery clinic - blood transfusion received||You must wait one year after surgery to donate - even if autologous blood was used|
|Minor surgery performed in MD office||You must wait one week to donate|
|Lasik/cataract surgery||You must wait one week to donate|
|Skin Grafts - Autologous||You must wait six weeks after the graft to donate|
|Skin Graft - Allogeneic||You must wait one year after the graft to donate|
|Bone Graft-Allogenic (purified cadaver bone used for dental, lumbar, etc., graft) or Autologous||You must wait six weeks after the graft to donate|
|BIO-OSS dental graft||You must wait six weeks after the graft to donate|
|OASIS non-cellular graft||You must wait six weeks after the graft to donate|
|Heart valve graft (porcine)||You must wait six months after the graft to donate|
|Transplant - Solid Organ from Animal source||You cannot donate|
I have a common ailment or illness.
Find the common ailment or illness you are looking for and read the comments for that condition.
|Ailment or Illness||Comments|
|Diabetes - feeling well and healthy||You can donate|
|Diabetes - symptomatic||You must wait 30 days after symptoms disappear before you can donate|
|Diarrhea||You must wait two days after symptoms disappear before you can donate.|
|Eczema - no infected lesions||You can donate|
|Headache - Severe Migraine||You can donate one day after your headache disappears|
|Irritable Bowel Syndrome (having abdominal discomfort)||You must wait two days to donate after symptoms disappear|
|Mononucleosis||You must wait six weeks after symptoms disappear before you can donate|
|Psoriasis||You can donate|
|Psoriasis - taking Acitretin, Soritane or Tegison||You cannot donate|
|Pneumonia||You must wait 30 days after you get well before you can donate|
|Poison Ivy (no lesions in venipuncture area)||You can donate|
|Ringworm (not in venipuncture area)||You can donate|
|Stroke related to heart or embolism||You can donate if it is more than six months since the stroke and your condition is stable.|
|Stroke related to head injury||You can donate if it is more than six months since the stroke and your condition is stable.|
|Thyroid - Hypo/Hyper - controlled with medication||You can donate|
|Ulcerative Colitis - no medication taken||You can donate|
|Ulcerative Colitis - taking Asacol||You can donate|
|UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)||You must wait two days after treatment is finished to donate|
I have had cancer.
There is a 3-year waiting period after completing treatment for melanoma and internal cancers, except lymphoma and leukemia, which are permanent deferrals. Minor external skin cancers such as basal or squamous cell you are eligible to donate 2 weeks after the cancer is removed.
I have a circulation or heart-related disorder.
Find the condition you are looking for and read the comments for that condition.
|Circulation or Heart Related Disorder||Comments|
|High blood pressure (controlled)||You can donate|
|All heart conditions/surgery/angioplasty and heart attacks that have associated chest pain||Please contact Medical Services:
|Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) - (Stable - no chest pain in past six months)||You can donate|
|Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) - (Unstable or chest pains within the past six months)||Must have a physician approval letter to donate|
|Arrhythmia - no pain/no medication or controlled by medication||You can donate|
I don't have sickle cell anemia, but I carry the trait.
You can donate blood if you have sickle cell trait. However, all blood is currently filtered to help prevent reactions in the recipient. Blood with sickle cell trait does not filter well. We encourage donors with sickle cell trait to donate plasma or platelet apheresis. These two types do not get filtered.
I have a sexually transmitted disease.
If you have genital herpes, chlamydia or venereal warts (human papillomavirus), but no active lesions, you can donate. If you have syphilis or gonorrhea you must wait one year after you complete your treatments and have negative test results.
I’ve made contact with someone who has hepatitis.
If you are hospital personnel or have been exposed via casual contact, you can donate. If your contact has come from a member of your household (sexual contact as well), and that person is asymptomatic and not undergoing treatment, you can donate. If that person is undergoing treatment or is symptomatic, you must wait one year before you can donate blood.
My PSA is elevated.
If your PSA is elevated due to benign prostate hyperplasia, you you may donate today, unless you are taking Avodart (dutasteride) or Proscar (finasteride). If your PSA is elevated and you are taking Proscar, you may donate one month after your last dose. If you don’t know why your PSA is elevated, please contact our Medical Services Department at (713) 791-6612.
I'm taking Propecia for baldness.
You may donate one month after your last dose.
I have had sexual contact with another male, even once, from 1977 to the present.
You cannot donate.
I am pregnant or recently gave birth.
You cannot donate until six weeks after giving birth.
I recently had an abortion.
You are eligible to donate six weeks after the procedure.
I recently had a miscarriage.
You are eligible to donate six weeks after the miscarriage.
I am going through Menopause or am having Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Yes, you may donate.
I'm taking birth control pills.
Yes, you may donate.
I'm taking fertility drugs.
Yes, you may donate.
I just had a mammogram.
If you had a routine mammogram, you may donate. If you had a mammogram for CA Dx, you may donate one week after your mammogram.
I have been given RhoGam/RhIg.
You may donate in 12 weeks.
I have a vaginal yeast infection.
Yes, you can donate.
In the past 12 months I have had sexual contact with a male who has had sexual contact another male or has used IV drugs.
You are eligible to donate one year after your last sexual contact with this partner.
What benefits are available for individuals who donate blood?
In addition to helping save up to three lives, blood donors receive many benefits For example; all donors receive a mini-physical exam at the time of their donation. This includes the determination of hemoglobin levels (as sign of anemia), blood pressure, temperature, blood type and various blood screening tests. Additionally, individuals who Commit for Life receive points that can be redeemed for great items in the Commit for Life store, invitations to specialty recognition events and more.
What do I need to know about the Advanced Wellness Check?
Full details about the Advanced Wellness Check are available here.
How can I reach the the next Commit for Life level?
Commit for Life donors reach a new membership level with every donation. If you donated twice last year to become a bronze-level donor, donate three times this year to be a silver-level donor or four times to become a gold-level donor! Every donation helps save up to three lives!
How do I get to the Commit for Life online store?
Is Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center part of or affiliated with the Red Cross?
No. Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is an independent, nonprofit blood center that is not affiliated with the American Red Cross.
Is it safe to receive blood?
Yes. The blood supply is now safer than ever. Every potential donor undergoes a thorough screening by a trained professional, and every unit undergoes many tests to ensure safety.
Which patients use what components?
Every whole blood donation can help save up to three lives. This is accomplished because the donation is separated into three separate components:
What is CMV?
A common viral pathogen found in all population groups. Nearly all CMV– infected people are asymtomatic. It causes few problems for healthy individuals. But in newborns and immunocompromised individuals, it may produce a variety of disease processes.
What is vCJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease)?
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) is a fatal degenerative disease affecting the nervous system that is found almost exclusively in the United Kingdom. It has been linked to another disease often referred to as "Mad Cow Disease." The risk of vCJD is unknown, however, only two cases associated with blood transfusion have been detected. Neither was in the United States. Learn more about vCJD.
Current FDA guidelines prevent you from donating blood if you have spent an extended amount of time in the United Kingdom and Europe. The guidelines are:
Why do I need doctor's orders before donating autologous, directed or therapeutic units?
We must have a doctor's request in order to make sure we have all the proper information for the patient (what components are needed, social security numbers, date of birth, doctor's name, fax and phone number, name of hospital, etc.). We also make sure the doctor has authorized the patient to give an autologous or therapeutic donation. Click on the links to download the appropriate forms.
Do you ship blood internationally?
No, clearing the blood units through customs is very difficult. We cannot regulate the blood temperature once it leaves The Blood Center.
What is HBsAG?
HBsAg stands for hepatitis B Surface Antigen. This test identifies hepatitis B antigens and antibodies, which help determine if a person is infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV).
Can I donate blood for myself?
Yes. It is called an autologous donation. Autologous (au-tol-o-gous) blood transfusion is a procedure in which you are transfused with blood that you have donated only for yourself. This type of donation only can be conducted with written permission from your physician. A written order must be faxed to the Autologous and Directed Program of The Blood Center. Your physician can obtain a "Request for Autologous/Directed Donation" form by calling (713) 791-6608 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or you may download it here, and take to your physician to complete.
Why do I have to pay for my own blood?
The charges assessed with an autologous donation are to recover costs for testing, processing and service fees.
If I'm having surgery out of town, can I donate here and have it shipped? And at what cost?
Yes, you may donate with a physician's request at any of our local Neighborhood Donor Centers. But all units must be prepaid before any donations are made. This fee varies depending on how many units your physician wants. It includes testing and processing fees, autologous and/or directed fees, and shipping and handling.
If I don't use my autologous donation, why can't it be released for someone else?
Autologous donations are not drawn under the same criteria as a regular whole blood unit. Some physicians will allow autologous donors to donate who otherwise would not qualify to donate for the general public. Therefore, these units cannot be released for someone else to use.
Will I be charged for directed donations if the donors are not compatible?
If your donors are not compatible there is no charge. But if we are not provided with the patient's blood type when we draw the unit, then we send every donation to the hospital. After the hospital cross-match is done and it is concluded that the donation is incompatible, then there is only the direct fee of $26.
Why does my blood expire sooner if I am a blood relative?
If you are a blood relative, your donation will have to be irradiated to avoid graft vs. host disease (donor's cells attack the patient's tissues). In this instance, the 42-day expiration for red blood cells is then reduced to 28 days.
Why can't I know the names of or other information about my direct donors?
All information is kept strictly confidential in accordance to HIPAA (a set of rules designed to protect patients and their health information).
I am required by a doctor to have blood drawn as a form of treatment. What do I need to do?
If you have polycythemia or porphyria cutanea tarda and are required to have blood drawn as a form of treatment, you may come to any Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center Neighborhood Donor Center for the procedure.
With the exception of approved hemochromatosis donors, therapeutic patients will only be drawn on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The therapeutic request form must be completed by your doctor and faxed to (713) 790-1782 at least 72 hours prior to the first collection to allow time for review, Medical Director approval and data entry. Incomplete or illegible orders will not be accepted. There is no charge for each phlebotomy.