How To Donate Blood If You Have A Tattoo

by Amée LaTour

The mass shooting tragedy in Orlando early Sunday morning, along with World Blood Donor Day on Tuesday, are raising awareness of the importance of blood donations. People who want to give — and hopefully become regular donors — need to know about the eligibility requirements for doing so. One common question prospective donors have is can you donate blood if you have a tattoo?

In general, people with tattoos can donate blood. But in certain situations, you need to wait a year before giving. That's only the case if you live in a location where tattoo facilities aren't regulated, the American Red Cross explained. Most states regulate tattoo facilities, but they aren't regulated in D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Idaho, Georgia, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maryland, Utah, or Wyoming. So, if you have gotten a tattoo in one of these 11 locations within the past 12 months, you'll need to wait until after that time to donate blood.

State-regulated facilities must use sterile needles, and the ink applied must not be reused, explained the Red Cross. When you arrive to donate blood, you'll need to answer questions about your health history. During this time, you can discuss your tattoo to determine whether you are eligible to donate blood. These rules are in place to guard against the spread of hepatitis.

Gerardo Mora/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you're not eligible to donate blood because you got a tattoo from an unregulated facility within the past year, there's still something you can do: Schedule an appointment to give blood at a later date. The easiest way to do so is to use the American Red Cross's blood drive calendar, through which you can schedule a date and time to donate at a drive near you. If you can't find a drive listed past the date on which you become eligible, consider making a note for yourself in your calendar so you remember to schedule an appointment closer to the time you'll be able to donate.

Being proactive now, when awareness is heightened, is important. Blood donations are always needed. Though immediate need may spike in the wake of a tragic event, most blood donations are used by hospitals for everyday needs. America's Blood Centers reported that most donated blood goes to people with cancer, those with blood disorders, or those undergoing surgery. The organization noted that someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds. Donations are crucial both for responding to tragedies and meeting everyday needs.

Your blood will be invaluable and life-saving, whether you can donate tomorrow or have to wait several months. If a tattoo is preventing you from acting now, you can be proactive by scheduling an appointment for a future date.