Arthritis Medications and Blood Donations

Blood donation is important. Blood contains components that are essential to life. Donating blood helps to have it readily available for people who need blood due to injury, illness, or surgery. Donors actually like to give because it makes them feel charitable and proud and sometimes there are incentives offered.

Your Disease May Make You Ineligible to Donate

Have you wondered if people with rheumatoid arthritis or other rheumatic diseases are able to donate blood? Does their disease or their prescribed treatment preclude them from donating blood? We asked rheumatologist Scott J. Zashin, M.D., who explained, "Patients with Sjogren's syndrome, lupus, and scleroderma are not able to donate blood. Most patients with rheumatoid arthritis are not able to donate. There are a number of reasons blood donation is not permitted in these cases. First, many patients will be anemic. Secondly, many patients will be on DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), which include methotrexate and Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine)."

Dr. Zashin continued, "Rheumatoid arthritis patients only on NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen, may be permitted to donate. Policies at each blood bank may differ. If you are considering a donation, be sure to check with your local blood bank and provide them with your diagnosis and a complete medication list. Also, if you do plan to donate blood, make sure you feel well."

The American Red Cross Donation Criteria

Blood donors should be in good health and not suffer from any serious illness. It is very important to ensure that the act of donating blood does not jeopardize the donor's health in any way. Safe blood is blood that does not contain viruses, bacteria, parasites, drugs or other injurious factors that may harm a blood recipient. Donated blood must also not harm the recipient. It must be safe for transfusion to those who need it.

According to the Red Cross, "Most chronic illnesses are acceptable as long as you feel well, the condition is under control, and you meet all other eligibility requirements. In most states, donors must be age 17 or older. Some states allow donation by 16-year-olds with a signed parental consent form. Donors must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Additional eligibility criteria apply."

Postponing Your Donation

You should postpone your donation for 3 days if you take prescription medications, excluding paracetamol, anti-histamines, or sedatives provided they are not taken for fever/flu/illness, e.g., NSAIDs such as diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, except if taken for heart disease, stroke, or other medical conditions, which make the donor ineligible for blood donation.

Who Should Not Donate Blood

You should not donate blood if you have:

  • Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyrotoxicosis
  • Been infected by HIV or are at risk of getting HIV (e.g., have had sexual contact with an HIV-positive person or have multiple sex partners)
  • Previous history of drug abuse (either oral or intravenous)
  • Serious chronic illnesses, such as diseases of the heart or lung (those with well-controlled asthma can still donate blood)
  • Ever had Hepatitis B or C
  • Previous or current history of cancer (depending on the type of cancer and successful treatment)
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