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Why aren't you donating blood? Breaking down myths and misinformation

Can you donate blood if you have tattoos? Why are we always in a crisis mode when it comes to blood supply? Let's verify.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — There is a National Blood Shortage. LifeSouth Community Blood Centers say there is an emergency need of blood locally as well. 

That means they need you to donate blood. There are several blood donation centers and blood mobiles around town and across America at all times. 

What is keeping people from donating? Misinformation and myths. Let’s verify. 

SOURCE: Vice President of Medical Services for Lifesouth Dr. Chris Lough

­­QUESTION: Can donating blood reduce men and post-menopausal women’s risk of a heart attack?

ANSWER: “That’s a maybe," Dr. Lough said. 

He says back in the late 90s there was a population study where researchers observed the health of people who donated blood and those who didn’t. They found the donors had fewer heart attacks. He says correlation is not causation.

However...

“Blood donors tend to be healthier people," Lough said. "Not only because they’re more health conscious, but they also are healthy enough to donate blood. They are more active in their health generally speaking.”

He says if you have high hemoglobin, donating blood can in fact reduce your risk of heart attacks or strokes.

QUESTION: Can gay men donate blood? 

 ANSWER: Yes. 

There is a required celibacy period in order to make sure the blood would not have HIV.  

"Recently we have moved to 3 months as some of the data gets better," Dr. Lough said. 

Lough said this rule also goes for women who have sex with men who have sex with men.

QUESTION: Can you donate blood if you have tattoos?

ANSWER: Yes. 

“If you got that in a licensed parlor, which here in the state of Florida all of them are, using single use sterile needles, no problem to donate even the same day you got the tattoo if you want to," Lough said.

For Georgia, he says you'll need to double check that your tattoo parlor is licensed since the requirements are different in Georgia.

QUESTION: Are we always in a critical need or emergency when it comes to blood donations?

ANSWER: Recently, yes.

“It seems like we’ve been in a crisis for quite some time because we’ve had lots of exceptional things happen," Lough explained.

The exceptional things include:

  • COVID changing people’s behaviors.
  • Blood drives being cancelled
  • And he says they’re having trouble getting young professionals to donate blood so the population of people who donate is declining.

The thing about blood donation is it’s not something you can manufacture," said Lough.

LifeSouth prefers to have a 3 day supply of blood. When they get down to 1 day supply, it’s crisis mode. Lough tells me when you see the critical need, most of the time it is for O- and O+ donors. 

Each year, an estimated 6.8 million people in the U.S. donate blood according to Red Cross, but that only equates to about 2 percent of the population. 

Find a blood donation center or mobile unit near you by clicking here.

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