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Blood donation

13-minute read

Why should I give blood?

Many people need regular blood transfusions to help treat their medical conditions. Blood donations are also used in emergencies and to treat cancer.

Healthy adults are encouraged to donate blood. 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?

Just over half of your blood is plasma. Plasma donation, or apheresis, is a lot like a blood donation.

A special machine takes blood from your arm. The machine separates your blood and collects the plasma. Your plasma is a yellow colour. Your red blood cells make your blood red. These are returned to you during your plasma donation.

Plasma is full of proteins that can be used in 18 different ways. You can donate plasma every 2 weeks.

Can I give blood?

Most healthy adults, aged between 18 years to 75 years can give blood in Australia.

There are some things that might affect your eligibility to be a blood donor. These include:

  • which medicines you take
  • your medical history
  • your travel history

The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood has an eligibility checker that will help you work out whether or not you can donate blood.

How old do I need to be to donate blood?

You need to be aged between 18 years and 75 years to donate blood.

Can I give blood if I’m sick?

You should wait until you are feeling fit and well before donating blood.

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

You can find more information about donating blood when you have a long-term condition on the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood website.

Can I donate blood after a vaccination?

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

You can donate blood every 12 weeks. If you’d like to donate more often, you can give 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 include:

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

Can I give blood after a tattoo?

You can donate plasma straight away after getting a tattoo if it was done in a licensed tattoo parlour in Australia. But you’ll need to wait 4 months to give blood or platelets. This includes cosmetic tattoos.

Can I give blood after a piercing?

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

After having a body piercing, you can only donate plasma for the next 4 months.

Can I give blood after injecting drugs?

You need to wait 5 years to donate blood after injecting drugs which weren’t prescribed for you.

Can I give blood after a sexual encounter?

You’ll 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 weren’t prescribed.
  • Had sexual activity with someone who has HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) infection

How do I donate blood?

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

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
  • try to have a good night’s sleep

What should I do before I go to the blood donation clinic?

On the day that you plan to donate blood you should:

  • drink 3 glasses of fluid
  • have something savoury to eat
  • avoid strenuous exercise
  • write down any medicines that you are taking (the name and the dose)

You’ll need to take some 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
  • digital donor card in the Donate Blood app

What happens at the blood donation centre?

When you are at the centre, trained staff will:

  • check your ID
  • check that you can donate blood
  • give you a finger-prick test to check your haemoglobin levels (haemoglobin is the molecule in red blood cells that makes them red)

They’ll 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 clinic 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. Your blood will be checked for your blood type and red cell antibodies.

Your blood will also be screened for 5 infectious diseases:

  1. human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  2. hepatitis B
  3. hepatitis C

Some donations are also screened for syphilis, human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV).

The screening process for all donated blood in Australia is strict to ensure the safety of people who receive the blood.

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 might occasionally feel light-headed or dizzy.

Contact the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood on 13 14 95 for advice if you feel unwell after donating blood.

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: September 2022

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