Every day, the Donor Helpline answers dozens of phone calls as well as email and Facebook messages about the requirements for blood donation, among other things. We have listed the most frequently repeated myths that nurses clear up on a daily basis.
Few claims can be responded to on a simple right or wrong basis, as donation eligibility is always based on assessment of the individual’s overall situation.
Medication prevents blood donation.
The majority of medicines do not pose an obstacle to blood donation. It is commonly wrongly believed that all high blood pressure, asthma or antidepressant medication prevent blood donation.
“Information more important for us than a particular drug is the situation or illness that the person is medicating. It may be this that is the obstacle to donating blood, not the medicine itself,” says Hanna Jacob, a nurse at the Blood Donation Service Unit.
Drug concentrations in a donor's blood are low – in practice, they are in the plasma. Only a very small amount of plasma from one donor is transferred to a patient in transfusion therapy, and that small amount becomes diluted in the patient’s total blood volume.
I have tattoos, so I can’t donate.
Tattoos do not preclude blood donation, even if they are located at the injection site, as long as at least four months have elapsed since getting the tattoo.
“You are thus prevented from donating blood only if you have a new tattoo. The same interval also applies to piercings,” Jacob clarifies.
I have had surgery within the last six months and therefore I can’t donate.
Temporary pauses in donating blood due to surgery vary considerably, usually from one week to four months. Knee or hip replacement surgery requires a pause of at least four months, but surgery to correct short-sightedness only a week.
“The idea of six months comes from the old guideline, which was changed a few years ago.”
I don’t know my blood group, so I can’t donate.
You don’t need to know your blood group or other blood values in order to be able to donate blood. The blood group of donated blood is determined in conjunction with every donation and tested for major infections to ensure blood safety.
“After your first donation, you can ask your blood group after about a week by calling the Donor Helpline,” says Hanna Jacob.
I have a common blood group, so I am unlikely to be needed.
“Blood donors from every blood group are needed. If your blood group is common, you are an important donor, as a large number of patients have a common blood group. This means that there is a constant need for your blood group.”
I am too old, my blood is probably no longer acceptable.
If you are healthy, you can donate until you are 71. However, you must be under the age of 60 if you are donating for the first time. If you want to donate when you are over the age of 65, you should donate blood at least every other year.
“The requirement for older donors in other countries is regular, active donation at least every other year. In Finland, we came to the same decision when we changed the guideline regarding the upper age limit a few years ago.”
Read more about the eligibility to donate blood here