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FDA updates guidelines for donating blood | Wear the Gown

The organization has relaxed rules for many groups of people making the pool of donors larger.

SAN ANTONIO — The FDA has relaxed some of its blood donation requirements, which means many who could not give this life-saving donation can finally do so. 

All it takes is one major incident in a community to lead to blood supply shortages. One of the big changes in these new guidelines involves COVID.

"For COVID patients, once they are symptom free, they can donate 14 days after they are symptom free," said Dr. Preethi Menon who is a Pathologist and Transfusion Medicine Specialist with University Health. She says another change involves those who have traveled to certain foreign countries. 

"For potential donors who have traveled to countries or areas that are endemic for malaria, the deferral period has now reduced from 12 months to three months," she said. "So examples would be like Honduras or travel to India."  

Other recent changes include those who received tattoos. There is no longer a deferral period it just has to be fully healed. But from an unlicensed facility you need to wait three months. Those with potential exposure from mad cow disease can now donate. And men having sex with men must be abstinent for three months now instead of 12.

"This category, which is men who have sex with men, that population has the highest risk of HIV transmission. So that is the main reason that FDA still has a deferral period,"  Dr, Menon said.  

Only about 3% of the U.S. donates blood every year. Each blood component can be separated into several components including red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. And each whole blood donation has the potential to save up to three lives. 

"Even with our whole blood inventory, which actually comes from the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, I want to see at least twice in a week we do have to contact them and ask them for more supply of whole blood," Dr. Menon told us. 

For a list of frequently asked questions and how to donate blood with University Health click here

For a list of eligibility requirements and other information from the American Red Cross about donating blood click here

To find out more about how to donate blood with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center click here.

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