Facts about blood donation

PHOTO: Facts about blood donation

Who can donate blood

The Singapore Red Cross encourages individuals to donate blood if they:

  • Are between 16 and 60 years old; (Youths aged 16 and 17 require parental consent)
  • Weigh at least 45 kg;
  • Have a haemoglobin level of at least 12.5 g/dl;
  • Are in generally good health;
  • Have not had any symptoms of infection for at least 1 week e.g. sore throat, cough, runny nose, diarrhea; and
  • Have not had a fever in the last 3 weeks.

In addition to the above requirements, platelet and plasma apheresis donors should also:

  • Weigh more than 50 kg;
  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Cannot be more than 50 years old (for new apheresis donors only);
  • Have donated blood successfully at least once before; and
  • Have arm veins of a suitable size.

However, if one's answer is YES to any of the following, he/she is not suitable to donate blood.

  • Ever had Hepatitis B or C
  • Been infected by HIV or are at risk of getting HIV (Please refer to www.hsa.gov.sg/donorcare/donationcriteria for more details)
  • Previous history of drug abuse
  • Previous or current history of cancer
  • Chronic illnesses requiring medications such as hypertension, diabetes or heart, lungs, kidney diseases
  • Stayed in the UK for a cumulative period of 3 months or more from 1980 to 1996
  • Stayed in France for a cumulative period of 5 years or more from 1980 to present
  • Stayed in other parts of Europe for a cumulative period of 5 years or more from 1980 to present (however, you can donate plasma through apheresis donation)

There are also some common conditions that may make one temporarily unsuitable to donate blood:


Deferral periods

Traditional herbs or medications

3 days

Vaccinations (depending on type)

48 hours to 4 weeks

Medications for treating acute conditions

3 days to 3 weeks

Travel to Malaria endemic areas

6 weeks or more

Tattoo, ear / body piercing or acupuncture

12 months unless needles used are disposable and the whole procedure is done aseptically

Menstrual period

Should not donate if flow is heavy or having menstrual cramps


6 weeks after normal childbirth


1 week after cessation

Minor surgery

6 weeks to 6 months

Major surgery or blood transfusion

12 months

Q&As about blood donation

 Ms Cecilia Tan, director of Singapore Red Cross's Blood Donor Recruitment Programme, addresses some common concerns about blood donation:

How safe is blood donation?

Don't worry, giving blood is safe! The health of every potential donor is carefully assessed by the attending medical staff before a donation. It is not possible to catch any disease by donating blood, as new and sterile disposable needles and blood packs are used for each donor.

Will blood donation weaken our immune system?

Giving blood will not harm your body or weaken your immune system. The average adult has four to five litres of blood. During a donation, only 450 ml of blood is drawn. The donated blood volume will be replaced in just 3 days. With adequate hydration and a balanced diet, red blood cells will be replaced by the body by 10 to 12 weeks.

Donors can give whole blood donations four times a year, at an interval of 12 weeks between each whole blood donation. This recommended time interval is meant to protect the well being of donors.

As for platelet and plasma apheresis donations, donors can give up to 12 times a year (once every 4 weeks). After a platelet apheresis donation, the body replaces its platelets in three to seven days. After a plasma apheresis donation, the body replaces its plasma volume in 72 hours with adequate hydration.

Can women, who lose blood during menstruation, still be regular donors?

Women can donate blood just as regularly as men. However, we advise our female donors to have iron-rich diets and to take the iron supplement that is given to them after every blood donation.

Should a regular blood donor take more iron, or other supplements, to replace the lost blood?

I would advise potential donors to increase your intake of iron-rich food such as red meat, beans, dark green vegetables, iron-fortified cereals, raisins and prunes two weeks before your donation, and to drink extra fluids the day before and on the day of donation.

Other tips:

  • Have a good night's rest before your blood donation and have something light to eat and drink two hours prior to donating blood.
  • Avoid fatty food as lipids (fatty materials) that appear in your blood several hours after eating can affect the tests carried out on the blood you have donated.
  • Try to wear short sleeved or loose fitting sleeves so as not to cause constriction to the arm when the sleeve is rolled up.
  • Relax during the donation, and if you are feeling anxious, let the nurse know and she will help you feel at ease.
  • Lastly, do take the iron tablets provided by the blood bank to help your body replenish the blood loss.

Will one feel faint after donating blood?

Whilst donors normally have a pleasant experience throughout the blood donation process, some may occasionally experience a mild reaction such as dizziness, skin irritation, bruising or fainting. We advise our donors to rest at least five to ten minutes after the removal of needle and take time to enjoy a snack and drink at the refreshment area.

Are there health benefits for regular blood donors?

Being well enough to donate regularly is a sign that the donor is in good health, since his/her blood would have to be free from viruses or other infectious agents.