Frequently Asked Questions

Blood Donation and COVID-19 

For information about COVID-19 and blood donation, including exposure and symptom deferrals for all donors (including healthcare workers), visit sandiegobloodbank.org/covid19.

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Why donate blood?
Blood donation is one of the most important things you can do for others. It allows you to help save the life of a premature infant or trauma victim, or vastly improve the health of someone fighting a chronic disease or cancer. There is no substitute for human blood, which means local hospitals rely on the generosity of our community for the gift of life.

What is the health benefit from blood donation? 
Each time you donate, you receive a mini health screening. You can even track your blood pressure, pulse, hemoglobin, temperature, and cholesterol in your online personalized health portal. 

Who benefits from blood donation?
The impact of blood donation is full circle. Donating empowers healthy people to share the gift of health, which in turn keeps neighbors and community members alive and thriving. Your donation can help people who have experienced: cancer, car accident or trauma, heart surgery, severe anemia, pregnancy complications, and much more.

Research shows a connection between altruism, generosity and health. Though it might not be the kind of health measured by your fitness tracker, an emotional boost improves overall well-being and can add years to your life. In addition, each time you donate, you get a mini health screening. Track your blood pressure, pulse, hematocrit, temperature and cholesterol in your online personalized health portal.

What is the process for donating blood?
After you arrive at a San Diego Blood Bank donation center or mobile drive, there are typically four steps. The donation process usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.

1. Answer a questionnaire about travel history, lifestyle, medications and general health.

2. Receive a health screen (e.g., blood pressure, temperature, pulse, hematocrit) to ensure your wellbeing and determine any barriers to donation.

3. Donate blood. The process itself takes about 10 minutes for whole blood, during which you can lay back and relax. Many donors think of this as “me time” that saves lives.

4. Sit in the canteen for 15 minutes while you enjoy a well-deserved beverage and snack.

Next, your donation is taken to the lab and gets processed in a centrifuge to separate it into three different lifesaving components. Once testing is completed to ensure safety of the blood components, 24/7 dispatchers deliver it to the hospital, where it is used to help someone in need.

How often can I donate blood? 
Healthy individuals can donate whole blood every 8 weeks. The time frame is shorter for platelet and plasma donors, who can donate every two and four weeks, respectively.

Is it safe to give blood?
Yes! You cannot contract any diseases (HIV or other infectious diseases) from donating blood; sterile kits are used only once and then disposed of and staff are highly trained and experienced. Your body restores its fluids in days and the cells in just weeks, so any minor affects you may feel (e.g., lightheadedness) will be temporary.

Can I donate blood if I have diabetes or high blood pressure?  
As long as your diabetes or high blood pressure are under control, you are able to donate. If you have questions about other conditions, please call (619) 400-8251 or email 
donorservices@sdbb.org. Many conditions are OK as long as you are not experiencing symptoms on the day you donate.  

Can I give blood after getting a tattoo?
Yes, but the tattoo must be fully healed and have been applied by a state-regulated facility (like California) with fresh ink and sterile needles.

States that do not regulate tattoo parlors:

• Connecticut
• Georgia
• Idaho
• Maryland
• Nevada
• New York
• Pennsylvania
• Utah
• Wyoming

You need to wait 3 months after getting a tattoo in any of the above states, so set a calendar reminder.

What are the qualifications for donating blood?
Donating is easy, and it’s likely that you are eligible if you’re 17 or older and in good general health. If you have questions about eligibility, call (619) 400-8251.  

Here are some things to remember: 

  • Bring a valid picture ID — you do not need a social security card to donate or to be a United States citizen.   
  • Stay home if you are not feeling well. 
  • It’s safe to donate if you have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, under control. However, certain conditions—including Hepatitis B or C and HIV/AIDS—prevent donation.
  • Taking medication does not necessarily mean you cannot donate blood. If you have questions about a specific medication, call (619) 400-8251.
  • There is no upper age limit to donating.


What are the different types of blood donations?

  • WHOLE BLOOD: This is the most common type, during which a pint (or unit) is donated. One whole blood donation can save up to three lives!
     
  • DOUBLE RED CELL: If you meet a set of criteria, you can donate two units of red cells. Red blood cells help accident victims, surgical patients and people with anemia, among others.
     
  • PLATELET DONATION (plateletpheresis): Platelets are the cells that control bleeding, and they are essential for many cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
     
  • PLASMA DONATION (plasmapheresis): Plasma is the liquid part of the blood and contains proteins, electrolytes and other things that help the body run. It’s also used to help blood to clot. Plasma is often used to help people with liver conditions, burns, blood infections and more.

The donation process for double reds, plasma and platelets is longer than for whole blood, but it’s worth it. You’ll have time to chat with your favorite staff member, get some reading done or watch a show. You can soon go home and rest easy knowing you made a lasting impact in under two hours. If you’re looking for more inspiration, get to know some of our dedicated donors.

What is the best blood type for donating platelets or plasma?
AB blood types are the universal plasma donor, and their plasma is safe for all. A and B blood types make ideal platelet donors.

Do I need to be a US citizen to donate blood? 
No, citizenship is not required. You only need a valid picture ID that shows first name, last name, and date of birth. 

If I live in Mexico, am I able to donate blood?
If you have lived in Mexico for 5 years or more, you cannot donate blood due to Mexico being a malaria-endemic country.  

If I used to live in Mexico, can I donate blood?  
Yes. However, if you lived in Mexico for 5 or more years, you must live in the United States with no travel to Mexico for 3 years. This is because you would be considered a resident of a Malaria-endemic country according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you travel to Mexico during the 3-year waiting period, you must wait 3 years from the date of returning from Mexico. Once you have been in the United States for 3 years without travel to Mexico, you can travel to Mexico on occasion and would only be deferred from donating if you visited a region with malaria.  

Can I work out after giving blood? 
It is best to avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours after donating blood.

Does donating blood cause you to gain weight? 
No, blood donation does not cause weight gain. In fact, about 650 calories are burned when someone donates blood.   

Can I give blood if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding? 
Blood donation is not recommended during pregnancy. However, it is OK to donate six weeks after delivery and while you are breastfeeding.  

What should I expect after donating blood?

  • You will want to eat a healthy meal and drink more fluids than usual (of the non-alcoholic variety). 
  • Remove the bandage after a minimum of 4 hours.
  • Avoid heavy lifting and engaging in strenuous activities for 24 hours after blood donation.
  • If you feel lightheaded, lay down with your knees bent. You can also sit down and place your head between your legs. Drinking more fluids also helps to relieve discomfort. 

Where can I donate blood nearby?
Visit one of our donor centers or a mobile blood drive in the community.

  • Central San Diegans: Gateway Donor Center (2 miles east of downtown) - Click here.
  • Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Old Town: Liberty Station Donation Location - Click here.
  • Chula Vista, National City, Imperial Beach and San Ysidro: South Bay Donation Location - Click here.
  • La Mesa, El Cajon, Santee and Lakeside: East County Donor Center - Click here.
  • Escondido and San Marcos: North County Donor Center - Click here.
  • Vista, Oceanside and Carlsbad: Coastal Donor Center - Click here.
  • Poway, Mira Mesa, Sorrento Valley: Sabre Springs Donor Center - Click here.
  • La Jolla, Carmel Valley and Del Mar: Carmel Valley Donor Center - Click here.

Visit sandiegobloodbank.org/donate and pick a convenient time and location. Even if you don’t have access to a car or your schedule is busy, saving a life is fast and accessible.

How can I help if I can’t donate blood?
There are many ways to be a hero with San Diego Blood Bank:

  • Support research
    Blood donated for research has the potential to change the future of health for generations to come. Contact us at (619) 400-8251 and ask how you can participate in a research project.
  • Make a financial gift:
    San Diego Blood Bank relies on financial gifts to pay for critical supplies and equipment. Visit sandiegobloodbank.org/give to learn how you can make an impact.
  • Volunteer:
    Join our volunteer team and serve as a canteen host or mobile drive greeter. Have a special talent you want to share? Let us know and we will find a place for you. Visit sandiegobloodbank.org/volunteers