Can You Donate Blood If You Have A Tattoo? The Facts On Giving Blood And Tattoos

Written by: Claudia
Updated:

A common concern and a well-circulated myth about tattooing are that you cannot donate blood if you’re inked. The truth of the matter is that you can certainly donate blood if you have a tattoo, so long as you meet certain requirements and regulations. Read on to find out more.

Related: The Side Effects And Risks Of Getting A Tattoo

Are You Allowed to Give Blood If You Have a Tattoo?

Unlike what you may have heard to try and deter you from getting tattooed, or perhaps you’ve not been put in the loop of the new laws and rules surrounding donation, you are more than likely allowed to donate blood - and save many lives - after getting a tattoo. Like all regulations around blood work and disease, there are a few regulations you need to follow in order to donate.

Older Tattoos Are Fine

The old myth was that you had to wait a year after getting a tattoo before you were able to donate blood. Let’s be honest: most people don’t even wait a year before getting another tattoo, so how could this timeline possibly allow us to save many lives through donation?

In most states, if your tattoo was provided by a regulated shop (more on that shortly), you can donate directly after getting your tattoo. In most other circumstances, you’ll need to wait at least three to four months for your tattoo to fully heal and for any potential blood-borne illnesses from the procedure to be easily identifiable in your system.

Your Geographic Location Matters

Some states do not regulate their tattoo shops, and that means you need to follow the three-month rule before you are able to donate. These states are:

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Maryland
  • Massachusettes
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Pennslyvania
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

If you get a tattoo in any other state from one of their regulated or licensed shops, you can donate immediately. If you get a tattoo from a shop that isn’t on their regulated list, you have to follow the “one-year” waiting rule before you can make a blood donation.

Some Blood Banks are More Risk-Averse

Of course, regardless of state laws, counties have their own rules and blood banks follow their own procedures. You may be turned down by a blood bank that would rather not risk accepting the blood of a person who has had a tattoo for less than a year or who has a tattoo at all. You can always try another blood bank if you are adamant about donating blood!

The Restriction Applies to Other Body Modification Procedures

Unfortunately, the restrictions related to blood donations that apply to new tattoos also apply to other body modification procedures such as piercings, scarification, or cosmetic tattooing. It’s important to keep this in mind when considering both the shop and your donation plans.

Most People Can Donate Blood After Getting a Tattoo

Knowing all these regulations, you can see that tattoos should not be the reason that prevents you from donating blood and saving lives. If you are getting your tattoo from a professional and regulated shop, then you have even less to worry about.

Why Can’t You Donate Blood if You Have a New Tattoo?

You may be wondering what about tattooing makes blood banks slightly concerned about the risk involved with accepting your blood. There are a few factors that influence this fear:

  • Bloodborne Diseases - The risk for contracting blood-borne illnesses such as Hepatitis or HIV is heightened through the tattoo procedure. This is because it is never possible to 100% eliminate the risk of cross-contamination or bacterial issues with ink or equipment. Any procedure that requires piercing the skin and coming into contact with blood heightens the risk of these infections and the concern for blood banks.
  • Detection - Blood-borne illnesses often take a significant amount of time, such as three months to a year, to show up in blood tests. It’s for this reason that you often will be asked to wait after getting a new tattoo before you donate.
  • Immune System Issues - The other factor that can stop you from donating blood with a tattoo is the fact that your immune system is in overdrive trying to repair your wound, and you may be experiencing inflammation or tattoo flu.

Choosing a Safe and Hygienic Tattoo Shop

The easiest way to ensure that you’re able to donate blood after getting a tattoo is to select a highly professional and assured shop. If you’re in a state that does not do tattoo shop regulations, there are a few ways you can make sure your shop can be trusted.

  • Ask about their certification and training. The easiest way to check the professionalism of a tattoo parlor is to ask to see their certifications, health licenses, and training certifications. It’s also useful to ask about their sanitation processes and certification.
  • Ask to see the autoclave. If they don’t know what that is, time to go in the opposite direction! An autoclave is a machine that sterilizes equipment and disinfects it between clients. Be sure to check that all their one-time-use equipment is, in fact, one-time-use.
  • Pay attention to the tattoo artist’s setup. Have a look at their workspace. Check out how they wrap and wash equipment. Be sure your tattoo artist is taking all precautions and being safe for your health and their own.
  • Check out testimonials and reviews. While an angry one-star review here and there cannot be avoided, check out testimonials for words like, “clean,” “professionalism,” and “comfortable.”
  • Your artist should consult with you before and after the tattoo. You should be given extensive aftercare information to ensure optimal healing.
  • Trust your gut. If a space doesn’t feel safe, don’t proceed with your tattoo. You should be able to enter a tattoo shop and ask a multitude of questions without feeling as though the shop owner is being condescending or making you fearful for expressing your concerns. If a space doesn’t feel right, respectfully decline and leave the shop.

Our Final Thoughts

“You cannot donate blood if you have a tattoo,” is an age-old myth. While there are some rules and regulations to consider when it comes to blood donation with a new tattoo, you’re generally safe to continue saving lives even after you’re all inked up!

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