Can You Donate Blood If You Have Multiple Sclerosis?

Donating blood
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Giving blood is one of the most wonderful ways that you can volunteer and help save a life. Want proof? Just think about some of these startling statistics from the American Red Cross:

  • Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood.  
  • More than 1.69 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2017. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

But not everyone is able to give blood. For example, if you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you may be wondering whether it's safe for you to donate blood.

The short answer is: maybe. The long answer is more complicated. Read on to find out more details. 

Blood Donation Eligibility Guidelines and Requirements

The American Red Cross has eligibility guidelines that dictate who is allowed to give blood and who isn't. The organization, of course, wants to make sure that the blood that is donated is safe and free of disease and also that the person who is donating doesn't suffer any harmful side effects. 

There is one section of the eligibility guidelines that's called "Medical Conditions That Affect Eligibility" and it's important to note that multiple sclerosis is not listed in this section. However, the term "chronic illness" is listed. It states: "Most chronic illnesses are acceptable as long as you feel well, the condition is under control, and you meet all other eligibility requirements."

Eligibility requirements include not being currently sick, being at least 17 years old (or 16 with parental consent), weighing at least 110 pounds, not having given blood within the last eight weeks, not being pregnant, not having recently traveled to an area where malaria is found, and more. 

Can MS Patients Donate Blood?

If you have MS, you meet the general eligibility requirements, your MS is under control (meaning you're not super fatigued or symptomatic for a relapse), and you feel well, you should, technically speaking, be allowed to donate blood. But since multiple sclerosis isn't specifically mentioned in the eligibility requirements, MS falls into a bit of a gray area, and individual blood banks have been known to sometimes accept and sometimes deny people with MS.

A worker at a blood bank might say "no" simply because he or she is not sure and the eligibility guidelines aren't crystal clear. If you're interested in giving blood and feel that you should be eligible, you can encourage the worker at your local blood bank to call the national headquarters of the American Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE for guidance.

The Importance of Disclosing Medications

Remember that it's critical to mention any medications (including recent infusions) that you are taking to the worker at the blood donation center. Although none of the disease-modifying therapies or common symptom management medications for MS are specifically listed as restricted, any drug in question can be looked up online to make sure that it's safe for you to give blood.

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