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For whole-blood donation, you can make an appointment using our simple on-line form. If you have any other questions or concerns regarding donation, call the NIH Blood Bank at (301) 496-1048. We can also answer many of your questions via email at

Below, you will find a list of questions donors frequently ask. The eligibility criteria for donation at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Department of Transfusion Medicine (DTM) reflects local NIH policy as well as national regulations. Although all blood banks are required to follow general federal regulations, specific criteria may vary, depending on each blood bank‘s internal policies. If you are donating at a blood bank other than the NIH Blood Bank, contact that bank with any questions regarding your eligibility.

There is a slight risk of exposure to infectious agents outside the United States that could cause serious disease. Donor deferral criteria for travel outside the US are designed to prevent the transmission of three specific organisms from donor to recipient:

• Malaria. Malaria is caused by a parasite that can be transmitted from mosquitoes to humans. It is found in several hundred countries, and is one of the leading causes of death from infectious diseases world-wide. Donors who have traveled to areas listed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as malarial risk areas are deferred for 1 year after their travel ends.

• Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). BSE is commonly referred to as "Mad Cow disease" and is caused by an abnormal, transmissible protein called a prion. In the 1990s, the United Kingdom experienced an epidemic of the disorder in cows, with subsequent cow-to-human transmission, presumably through the food chain. BSE-infected cattle were also detected in other countries in Western Europe. Transfusion-transmission of BSE among donor-recipient pairs has been documented in a handful of cases. Donors who have spent more than three months in the United Kingdom from 1980-1996, and donors who resided in Western Europe for greater than five years since 1980, are permanently deferred from blood donation (

You cannot donate if you have tested positive for HIV or if you have AIDS. You also cannot donate if you have engaged in behavior that puts you at high risk for HIV exposure. For further information on high-risk behaviors, read the Donor Alert.

You can donate if you had skin cancer (basal cell or squamous cell) or cervical cancer in situ and the surgical site is completely healed. If you had another type of cancer, you can donate two years after the date of surgery or other definitive therapy, as long as your doctor informs you that there is no evidence of persistent or recurrent cancer. You are permanently deferred if you had leukemia or lymphoma.

Female donors must have a hemoglobin level of at least 12.5g/dL and male donors are required to have a minimum level of 13.0g/dL. The deferral is 30 days for both whole blood and apheresis donations. The most common reason for low hemoglobin is iron deficiency, and you will be given information about maintaining a healthy iron balance. View additional information about iron and blood donation.

You cannot donate if you have sickle cell disease. You should not donate whole blood if you have sickle cell trait, because your blood will clog the filter that is applied to whole blood units. You can donate platelets if you are a sickle cell trait carrier.

Consult with an NIH Blood Bank nurse regarding any vaccinations received within the last year. Most vaccinations are acceptable if you are symptom-free, however you must wait four weeks after immunizations for German Measles (Rubella), MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), Chicken Pox and Shingles.