Facts & FAQs
- You can give blood with these common medical conditions:
- Allergies (even those that need to be controlled by medication)
- Having received a flu shot (as long as you are symptom-free)
- After routine dental work
- Nursing mothers can give (pregnant women are not eligible to donate)
- On your menstrual cycle
If your medical question is not listed here, you may call our medical questions number at (401) 453-8307.
- Where can I donate?
For a small state, there are plenty of opportunities to save lives. We have six blood donation centers conveniently located throughout Rhode Island. Each offers maximum donor comfort, including comfortable donation lounge chairs, TV, free WIFI and parking. The state-of-the-Art automated blood donation technology allows donors to give just the part of their blood -- red cells, platelets or plasma -- patients need the most based on the donor's blood type. In addition, we hold over 1,000 mobile blood drives out in the community each year.
- Why should I donate?
Over 370,000 people in Rhode Island are eligible to give blood, but only about 5% of the population actually donates. Giving life through blood and stem cell donations uniquely comes from you and your willingness to roll up your sleeve to donate blood, register to BeTheMatch and sponsor drives.
- Can I donate?
Many people think they cannot donate blood before they even try. That's often because of myths like being too old, taking medications, or having a physical condition that prevents donation. In most cases, it's not true! More often than not, you can donate even if you've recovered from a heart attack, cancer, have diabetes, or are taking many different types of medications. Get the facts. Our medical team can also confidentially answer specific questions you have about donating.
- What is it like to donate?
The one thing each donor experience has in common is the amazing feeling of knowing you just gave someone else a second chance at life. More than time or money, you are donating your lifeblood, a part of you that provides strength, energy and vitality to another human being in need.
- Does donating hurt?
Donating blood is relatively pain-free. A simple pinch is all you will feel. We have some tips on preparing for your donation that can help make your experience a great one.
- Is donating safe?
Your safety is our first priority. We collect blood in a safe environment, and all of the materials are sterile, used only once, and for you alone. You cannot get HIV or any other disease from giving blood. Our staff also receive advanced training in blood donation phlebotomy, as well quality and safety standards.
- How long does it take?
The time it takes to give a pint of blood is only about 5 to 10 minutes. The rest is registration, filling out a health questionnaire, meeting with a donor specialist for a quick health assessment and spending 10 minutes in the post-donation refreshment area. Other types of blood donations, such as platelet and double red cell donations, take a little longer. It takes about 30 minutes for a double red cell/plasma donation and about 2 hours for platelets. Because you can give just the part of blood patients need the most based on your own blood type, we hope you will try an automated apheresis donation.
- Will giving blood make me sick?
Donating blood does not make you sick. To avoid any negative effects, such as dizziness or fatigue, make sure you prepare for your donation. After donating, please follow the post-donation recovery instructions, including hydration, avoiding strenuous activities for 24 hours, eating well, etc.
- Can I donate if I am on medication?
Most medications are okay for donating blood, including common medications for asthma, allergies, high cholesterol, blood pressure, depression and other mood disorders. Very few medications on their own prevent people from donating. Examples of medications that will prevent blood donations include Proscar (30 days from last dose) and Avodart (six months from last dose).
If you are donating platelets, you must refrain from taking Aspirin or products containing Aspirin for 48 hours prior to donation. You can take Aspirin if you are donating whole blood; however, we will not be able to use the platelets portion of your donation for transfusion. Very little medication remains in blood given to patients.
- Can I donate if I had a heart attack?
As long as you are feeling well three months after your heart attack, you can donate blood.
- Can I donate if I had cancer?
Depending on what type of cancer it was, you may still be able to donate if the cancer has been removed or eradicated and treated. Even if you received chemotherapy or radiation, you can donate blood one year after completing the treatment if the cancer is gone. If you did not need to receive chemotherapy or radiation, then you may be able to donate after you have recovered from the surgery.
If you've had chemotherapy and radiation for cancer that did not involve lymph nodes, most people can donate one year after completing treatment if you are in remission. If the cancer involved lymph nodes, survivors must wait 5 years after completing treatment to donate blood again.
Our medical team can confidentially answer any questions you may have about eligibility to donate at 401-453-8307.
- Can I donate if I had surgery?
If you have recovered from your surgery and did not need a transfusion or only received your own blood, you can donate when you feel up to it. If you received a transfusion from anyone apart from your own blood, you have to wait 12 months to donate.
- Can I donate if I'm anemic?
We don't test for iron, but as long as your hemoglobin/hematocrit level is within acceptable limits at the time of donation, you can donate. We test your hemoglobin before you donate each time with a simple finger stick test.
- Can I donate if I am diabetic?
We accept donors with diabetes as long as you feel well and healthy and have not had any acute events in the past three months.
- Can I donate if I have a tattoo?
If the tattoo was done at a licensed establishment in Rhode Island, you can donate after it is clean, dry, and pain free. Please call 401-453-8307 if your tattoo was done elsewhere. In general, we accept donors who have had recent tattoos in states and towns that use sterile needles and do not reuse ink.
- Can I donate if I have high blood pressure?
As long as your blood pressure is not higher than 180/100 you can donate blood. Many people take medications to control their blood pressure and that's okay. If your blood pressure is too high when you come to donate, we may wait a few minutes and take it again to see if it goes down. If it does, you can continue the donation process.
- Can I give blood if I have epilepsy or seizures?
Epilepsy or seizures do not disqualify you from donating as long as you have been seizure-free for one month.
- Can I donate if I'm on antibiotics?
If you were on antibiotics for an infection, you may donate after the antibiotics course was completed and as long as you are feeling well and symptom-free. Some low-dose antibiotics for acne and other long-standing conditions may be acceptable even if you are still taking them.
- Can I donate if I've had Lyme disease?
Yes. If you have had Lyme disease in the past but are feeling fine now, you may donate blood. Lyme disease has never been shown to be transmitted by blood, but we screen donors by questioning and do not accept donors who are not feeling well and healthy on the day of donation.
- Can I donate if I've had Babesiosis?
Not at this time. Babesiosis, a tick-borne illness with malarial-like symptoms, is transmissible via red blood cells. If you've had Babesiosis, the deferral period is indefinite.
- Can I donate if I have traveled internationally?
You must wait one year after traveling to a malaria-risk area. We follow the Centers for Disease Control's decisions about which areas are considered malarial risk, and these can change. If you are planning to travel outside of the US, and you are eligible to donate, the best thing to do is to give before you go!
- Can I donate if I have lived in Europe?
- Travel to or living in the United Kingdom (UK) for three months or more between 1980-1996 prevents an individual from donating.
- Receiving a blood transfusion in the UK from 1980-1996 prevents an individual from donating.
- Receiving bovine (cow) insulin since 1980 may prevent people from donating unless they know that the source wasn't from the UK.
- Living or traveling in Europe for a period adding up to five years since 1980 can prevent an individual from donating blood depending on which country you were in.
- Living on a military base in Belgium, Germany, or the Netherlands for six months between 1980-1990, or living on a military base in Spain, Portugal/Azores, Turkey, Italy, or Greece for six months between 1980-1996 prevents people from being able to donate blood.
- Can I donate if I am a male who has had sex with another male?
As of May 23, 2016, the Rhode Island Blood Center began accepting blood donations from men who have had sex with another male, as long as the male-to-male sex occurred at least 12 months prior to giving blood. Please call 401-453-8307 if you have been deferred in the past or if you have any questions.
The FDA, not the Rhode Island Blood Center, sets national blood safety regulations. Deferral is not for being gay, rather, specifically, for men having sex with other men within the last 12 months.
As with other blood centers across the country, we must follow the FDA rules for licensure. The FDA did change the rule to be less restrictive from a lifetime deferral to a one-year deferral, and we were happy to make that change. If the FDA changes the regulation again, we will certainly follow their guidance.
We recommend contacting FDA directly if you’d like to learn more details about the deferral, the current epidemiological data they base it on, and how they continuously reevaluate safety guidelines. FDA Contact Info.: Office of Communication, Outreach and Development, 1-800-835-4709 or 240-402-8010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How long after childbirth do you have to wait to donate blood?
Donors are required to wait six weeks after a pregnancy has ended before they can donate again.
- Can I donate if I'm breast feeding?
Yes. You can donate while breast feeding. Just be sure to stay hydrated and prep for your donation.
- Can I donate blood if I have had Hepatitis A?
Yes. You can donate 120 days after being diagnosed with Hepatitis A or living with a person who has active Hepatitis A as long as you are feeling well and healthy. Please call 401-453-8307 if you have been deferred in the past due to Hepatitis A, or if you have any questions.
- Does the blood center charge for blood?
Just like all blood centers in the United States, the Rhode Island Blood Center is a 503c Non-Profit blood center. RIBC does not sell blood to make a profit. RIBC charges a processing fee for blood provided to hospitals. That processing fee covers the costs necessary to provide a safe and adequate blood supply which includes, but is not limited to, the cost of the medical supplies (blood bags, sterile medical supplies, medical equipment, etc.), laboratory facilities for the extensive safety testing and product (red cell, platelets and plasma) production, staffing needed to collect and test the blood, quality assurance, and getting the blood to the hospitals and patients that need it when they need it. The non-profit hospitals who use the blood to save patient's lives in turn recover the costs of the processing fee by billing the recipient's insurance carrier, based on applicable standards and established fees.