Can People With IBD Donate Blood?

People with IBD are often active in community service, but can they give blood?

Woman donating blood
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Many people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are active in their community, and donating blood is a way to give back. It's not uncommon for people with IBD to be on the receiving end of blood transfusions. When feeling better, this can often lead to a natural desire to contribute to a blood bank. However, it can be confusing, because in many cases there is not a direct answer as to whether people who have IBD are acceptable donors.

What Makes a Good Blood Donor?

In order to donate blood, a person usually must be in good general health, be over the age of 17 (usually), and weigh more than 110 pounds (50 kilograms). This is not because of any concerns about the blood but more out of concern for the donor. 

A person who is not well might be further compromised by giving blood. When people with chronic illnesses such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are experiencing symptoms, losing blood is not desirable and may even make things worse. People with IBD may also be anemic, and anemia is one of the conditions that will make a potential donor ineligible.  

In some cases, potential donors are ineligible based upon the medications they are receiving. Blood donation centers may give specific or general examples of the medications that make a person ineligible to be a donor. In most cases, it's the current use of the medication that is the problem, and a person could become eligible again several months after stopping the drug.

 

There are several other guidelines that vary from country to country and from donation center to donation center. Travel to certain countries may disallow a person from becoming a donor. Having a fever or infection or an active contagious disease such as tuberculosis or certain sexually transmitted diseases will also mean a person isn't eligible to donate.

Giving Blood in the United States

In the United States, people with IBD may be able to donate blood, but it is highly dependent upon the policies of the blood collection center. For instance, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center allows donation by people with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis as long as there has not been any symptoms of diarrhea for three days before donating. However, donors must also have stopped taking certain medications for several months prior, including injectables (such as Remicade, Humira, and Entyvio), methotrexate, and the antibiotic Flagyl

The American Red Cross doesn't have any specific information listed about IBD and eligibility but does state that people with a chronic illness may be able to donate provided "you feel well, the condition is under control, and you meet all other eligibility requirements." There are no specific medication guidelines given in regards to the drugs commonly used for IBD. Whether or not IBD is under control is a subjective judgement, and if you meet other criteria and want to donate, talk to your gastroenterologist if you have more questions.

Giving Blood in Other Countries

Australia: The Australian Red Cross doesn't specify if IBD makes a person ineligible for donation, but they do ask that donors wait four months after having a biopsy or a polyp removed during a colonoscopy, gastroscopy, or flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure.

Canada: The Canadian Blood Services will not accept people who have Crohn's disease as blood donors. Ulcerative colitis isn't specifically listed as being an illness that prevents a person from giving blood. There may also be restrictions with regards to certain medications, especially those that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants). For more information, contact the Canadian Blood Services at 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

New Zealand: People with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis will not be able to donate blood with the New Zealand Blood Service.

The United Kingdom: In the United Kingdom, people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are not eligible to give blood. Contact the Donor Helpline at 0300 123 23 23 for answers to specific questions.

The Bottom Line

People with IBD may or may not be able to give blood, based on both personal health and the policies of local blood donation organizations. However, there are plenty of opportunities for volunteering both with donation facilities and in the local community or IBD organization. If you have more specific questions about donating blood, or want to volunteer, contact your local Red Cross or other non-profit organization.

Sources:

Additional Donor Requirements. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. http://www.mskcc.org/about/get-involved/donating-blood/additional-donor-requirements/medical-conditions-affecting-donation 

Eligibility Requirements. American Red Cross. http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements 

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