Donating blood with a history of herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) or herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2) is generally acceptable as long as:
- any lesions or infected cold sores are dry and healed or close to healed
- you wait at least 48 hours after finishing a round of antiviral treatments
This is true about most viral infections. As long as you’re not actively infected or the virus has left your body, you can donate blood. Keep in mind that if you’ve had herpes in the past, you still carry the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.
It’s also worth knowing a few of the details of when you can or can’t donate blood, and if you have a temporary infection or condition that may make you unable to donate.
Let’s get into when you can donate with specific conditions or other health concerns, when you can’t donate blood, and where to go if you’re in the clear to donate.
What about plasma?
Donating blood plasma is similar to donating blood. Plasma is a component of your blood.
When you donate blood, a special machine is used to separate plasma from blood and make plasma available to be given to a donor. Then, your red blood cells are put back into your blood along with a saline solution.
Because plasma is part of your blood, the same rules apply if you have herpes, whether you have HSV-1 or HSV-2:
- Don’t donate plasma if any lesions or sores are actively infected. Wait until they’re dry and healed.
- Don’t donate until it’s been at least 48 hours since you’ve finished taking any antiviral treatment.
Can you donate blood if you have HPV?
Maybe. Whether you can donate blood if you have HPV isn’t conclusive.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is another infectious condition caused by a virus. HPV is most commonly spread via skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the virus.
There are more than 100 types of HPV, and many of them are spread during oral, anal, or genital sex. Most cases are temporary and go away on their own without any treatment.
Traditionally, it’s been thought that you can still donate blood if you have HPV as long as you don’t have an active infection, as the virus is believed to be transmitted only through direct skin-to-skin contact or sex.
But a 2019 study of HPV in rabbits and mice called this into question. Researchers found that even animal subjects who didn’t have any symptoms could still spread HPV when they carried the virus in their blood.
More research is needed to verify whether HPV can be spread through blood. And even if HPV is spread through a donation, it may not be a type that’s dangerous, or it could be a type that’ll eventually go away on its own.
Talk to your doctor if you’re not sure whether it’s OK to donate blood if you have HPV.
When can’t you donate blood?
Still not sure if you can donate blood because of another limitation or condition?
Here are some guidelines for when you can’t donate blood:
- you’re under 17 years old, though you donate in some states at 16 and if your parents give their explicit approval
- you weigh less than 110 pounds, regardless of your height
- you’ve had leukemia, lymphoma, or Hodgkin’s disease
- you’ve had a dura mater (brain covering) transplant with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) or someone in your family has CJD
- you have hemochromatosis
- you have sickle cell anemia
- you have hepatitis B or C or jaundice without an obvious cause
- you have HIV
- you’re currently sick or recovering from an illness
- you have a fever or are coughing up phlegm
- you’ve traveled to a country in the past year with a high risk of malaria
- you’ve had a Zika infection in the last 4 months
- you’ve had an Ebola infection at any time in your life
- you have an active tuberculosis infection
- you’re taking narcotics for pain
- you’re taking antibiotics for a bacterial illness
- you’re currently taking blood thinners
- you’ve received a blood transfusion in the last year
When is it OK to donate blood?
You can still donate blood with certain health concerns. Here’s an overview of when it’s OK to donate blood:
- you’re older than 17
- you have seasonal allergies, unless your symptoms are severe
- it’s been 24 hours since you took antibiotics
- you’ve recovered from skin cancer or have been treated for precancerous cervical lesions
- it’s been at least 12 months since you’ve recovered from other types of cancer
- it’s been 48 hours since you’ve recovered from a cold or flu
- you have diabetes that’s well managed
- you’ve had no seizures related to epilepsy for at least a week
- you’re taking medication for high blood pressure
If you’re not sure
Still not sure if you’re eligible to donate blood?
Here are some resources you can use to figure out whether you can donate blood:
If you might have herpes
Wondering if you have herpes and want to know before you donate blood? See your doctor to get tested for herpes and other common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially if you’ve recently had sex with a new partner.
Where to donate blood
Now that you’ve decided that you’re eligible to donate blood, where do you donate?
Here are some resources to figure out where the nearest blood donation center is in your area:
- Use the Find a Drive tool at the Red Cross website to find a local blood drive using your zip code.
- Look for a local blood bank using the AABB website.
The bottom line
Donating blood is a crucial service to the medical field, as millions of people need fresh, healthy blood every day but don’t always have access to it.
Yes, you can donate blood even if you have herpes — but only if you’re not having an outbreak of symptoms and if it’s been more than 48 hours since you finished an antiviral treatment.
There are plenty of other caveats to donating blood, even if a condition or lifestyle choice doesn’t seem like it should have any impact on how safe or healthy your blood is.
Talk to your doctor or get in touch with a local blood bank, hospital, or nonprofit that has expertise in this area.
They’ll be able to test your blood for any of these conditions, help you navigate the process for donating blood, and walk you through any guidelines for how often and how much blood you can give.
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