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What you need to know about donating blood when you have diabetes

Nurse in drop-in department or clinic taking blood from woman donor

Donating blood is a selfless way to help others. A variety of medical conditions require regular blood transfusions — and regular blood donations make this possible. But people with diabetes should carefully consider any medical procedures involving blood, as their health depends on stable blood glucose and insulin levels.

The good news is that people with diabetes who maintain their blood glucose levels are at lower risk for blood sugar complications. That means you can donate blood with diabetes safely. Still, there are a few more factors to consider before deciding to donate. If you are unsure, check with your HCP before heading to your local blood drive.

Blood donation basics 

According to the American Red Cross, blood donation is safe, sterile, and easy. It takes only 10 to 15 minutes to donate one pint of blood. There are roughly 10 pints of blood in the human body! Each blood donation is accompanied by:

  • Registration
  • A review of your medical history
  • A short physical

During the physical, donation staff will check your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin. It is during this stage that you should let them know you have diabetes so they can monitor for complications.

Donating blood when you have diabetes

People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can donate blood, provided they are in good health. Those who consistently take their medication, watch their nutrition, and exercise will be more likely to keep their blood sugar levels in a healthy range to donate blood.

In the US, those with diabetes are required to meet the same requirements as people without diabetes who donate, including:

  • Maintaining a clean bill of health
  • Being free from illnesses like the flu
  • Weighing more than 110 pounds
  • Meeting the minimum age requirement according to state law

Researchers also found that A1C levels in people with diabetes can be affected up to two months after donation. That won’t stop people with diabetes from donating, but it may limit how often they can and should do it.

Talk to your HCP

If you want to donate blood with diabetes, there are two roadblocks you could encounter:

  • Consistent blood sugar fluctuations: The American Red Cross allows people with diabetes, including those who take insulin, to donate blood as long as their diabetes is “well controlled.” It is likely that the attending physician at a blood donation facility will ask about recent bouts of diabetic ketoacidosis or hypoglycemia to determine eligibility.
  • Using bovine insulin: Although this form of insulin is not commonly used anymore in favor of synthetic insulin, people using bovine insulin are not eligible to donate.

If you would like to donate blood but don’t meet the criteria, talk to your health care provider about ways you can improve your diabetes management.

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  1. Cathy Newcomb

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