Get the facts about tattoos & blood donation

By Alana Mauger

Got ink? I do. So does nearly half of the U.S. adult population. That’s a lot of people. So it’s a good thing that having a tattoo (or nine, in my case) DOES NOT disqualify us from donating lifesaving blood to the American Red Cross.

In states that don’t regulate tattoo facilities, like Pennsylvania, you need to wait three months after getting ink before you can donate blood. Why? While all blood donations are screened for Hepatitis B and C with several tests, there may be a period of time before the viruses can be properly detected. In addition to Pennsylvania, this applies to other unregulated states, including Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Utah and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia.

But there’s good news. Three months isn’t very long; in fact, the FDA reduced the waiting period from 12 to three months in June 2020.  And there’s NO wait time between getting ink and giving blood in other states as long as your tattoo is applied a state-regulated facility using sterile needles and ink that is not reused.

More into piercings? You’re not alone; 61% of the adult U.S. population has a piercing, with earlobe and ear cartilage being the most common. You should wait three months to donate blood after getting a piercing if it was performed with a reusable gun or other reusable instrument or if you don’t know whether or not the instrument was single use. (Note: Even though the equipment is sterilized and single-use jewelry is inserted, ear-piercing guns used at many retail stores are considered reusable.)

Here’s another stat – only 3% of age-eligible blood donors give blood each year. Arms – inked or not – are sorely needed right now to help the Red Cross recover from a severe blood shortage. You can help by scheduling an appointment to give blood or platelets. Download the free Blood Donor App, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS to get started.   

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