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Blood donation

12-minute read

Why should I give blood?

Many people need regular blood transfusions to help treat their medical condition. Examples of how blood donations are used include the treatment of cancer, anaemia, and blood, stomach and kidney diseases.

One blood donation can save up to 3 lives.

You can choose to donate:

  • blood
  • plasma (the liquid part of your blood)
  • platelets (cell fragments that help with blood clotting)

What is a plasma donation?

Giving a plasma donation is called apheresis. It's like giving blood. You can give a plasma donation every 2 weeks. Just over half of your blood is plasma.

A special machine takes blood from your arm. The machine separates your blood and collects plasma. Your plasma is a yellow colour when it's separated from your red blood cells, which make your blood red.

Plasma can be used in many ways, such as to treat liver and kidney disease, to prevent and stop bleeding and the treatment of major burns.

Can I give blood?

If you're aged 18 to 75 years, feeling well and weigh over 50kg, you can probably give blood in Australia.

There are some things that may affect your eligibility to donate, such as your:

  • medications
  • medical history (for example, if your iron is low, you are pregnant or recently pregnant)
  • travel history

Australian Red Cross Lifeblood has a full list of eligibility criteria and an eligibility checker to help you work out if you can donate blood.

Can I give blood if I'm sick?

No, you will need to wait until you're feeling well before donating blood.

Even if you only have mild symptoms, like a runny nose, you should stay home to rest and recover.

If you have a long-term condition, check the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood website for information.

Can I donate blood after a vaccination?

You might have to wait to donate blood or plasma after having a vaccination. The waiting time depends on the type of vaccination you have had.

Disease your vaccination is protecting you against Waiting period to donate plasma Waiting period to donate blood or platelets
Diphtheria None None
Influenza (both seasonal flu and H1N1 or 'swine' flu) None None
Hepatitis A None None
Meningococcal disease None None
Whooping cough (pertussis) None None
Pneumococcal disease None None
Q fever None None
Tetanus None None
Human papillomavirus (HPV) None None
Shingles None None
Measles None 4 weeks
Mumps None 4 weeks
Rubella (German measles) None 4 weeks
Polio None 4 weeks
Chicken pox None 4 weeks
Tuberculosis None 4 weeks
COVID-19 3 days 3 days
Hepatitis B 2 weeks 2 weeks
Smallpox/monkeypox 8 weeks 8 weeks

How often can I donate blood?

You can donate blood every 12 weeks or plasma every 2 weeks.

Are there any reasons why I can't donate blood in Australia?

There are some reasons why you might not be able to donate blood. These reasons are to minimise the risk to those who receive the donations. The reasons include:

  • recent body art — tattoos and piercings
  • injecting drug use
  • certain sexual encounters

Giving blood after a tattoo

You can donate plasma straight after getting a tattoo if it was done in a licensed tattoo parlour in Australia. You will need to wait 7 days to give blood or platelets. This includes cosmetic tattoos.

Giving blood after a piercing

After having your ears pierced, you can only donate plasma for the first 24 hours. After 24 hours, you can donate blood and platelets too.

After having a body piercing, you can only donate plasma for the next 4 months. After 4 months, you can give blood and platelets too.

Giving blood after injecting drugs

After injecting drugs that weren't prescribed for you, you will need to wait 5 years to donate blood.

Giving blood after a sexual encounter

You will need to wait 3 months before you can donate blood, if in the last 3 months, you have:

  • had oral or anal sex with a male who may have had oral or anal sex with another man. This includes safe sex (using a condom).
  • been a sex worker or had sex with a sex worker
  • had sexual activity with someone who has injected drugs that were not prescribed
  • had sexual activity with someone who has HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) infection

Find out more about these rules.

Where can I donate blood?

You can donate blood to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, which operates blood donor centres and mobile units all around Australia.

Find one near you.

What is the blood donation process?

What do I need to do to prepare to donate blood?

The day before you donate, you need to:

  • drink plenty of fluids
  • have plenty to eat
  • avoid foods that are high in fat or fried
  • try to have a good night's sleep

What should I do before I go to the blood donor centre?

On the day of your donation, you should:

  • drink 750mls of fluid
  • have something savoury to eat
  • avoid strenuous exercise
  • write down medicines that you take, to give to the staff at the donor centre

You will need to take identification (ID) with you. This should show your:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • home address
  • signature
  • photo

Your ID could be your driver's license, passport, or digital donor card in the Donate Blood app.

What happens at the blood donation centre?

When you arrive, the staff will:

  • check your ID
  • get you to fill out a donor questionnaire to check if you can donate blood
  • give you a finger-prick test to check that your haemoglobin levels are safe so you can donate (haemoglobin is the molecule in red blood cells that makes them red)
  • test your blood pressure

The staff will make sure you feel comfortable and look after you during the process. Your whole appointment will take about an hour.

What happens after I've donated blood?

After you have donated blood, it's important to rest for a few minutes.

You can then go to the refreshment area in the donor centre where you should stay for another 15 minutes. Make sure you have a drink and a snack.

What is my blood screened for?

It's important that all blood donations are screened to keep the people who receive donations safe. Your blood will be checked for your blood type and red cell antibodies. If you’re donating for the first time your blood will be screened for human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV ).

Your blood will also be screened for 5 infectious diseases, including:

Some donations are also screened for cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Are there any side effects from donating blood?

After donating blood, you may get a small bruise where the needle went into your arm.

Donating blood in Australia is extremely safe and most people feel fine afterwards. However, you may occasionally feel light-headed or dizzy.

If you feel unwell after donating blood, you can contact Australian Red Cross Lifeblood on 13 14 95 for advice.

Resources and support

You can call Australian Red Cross Lifeblood on 13 14 95 for more information on donating blood.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2023

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