Donating Blood With Type 1 Diabetes

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According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone needs blood. We all know that donating blood is a worthy thing to do. But the donation of blood assumes a cooperative body and a donation system that will accept the blood running through your veins.

So what does that mean for those with T1D? Many are under the assumption that a diagnosis means they can’t donate. Wrong. For the most part, giving blood is an option, but it does depend on the following:

  • Where you live
  • Your blood sugar levels
  • What type of insulin you are taking

Consider your own safety

T1D should not put you at any greater risk of feeling feint or nauseous while donating. Some T1D patients report their BGLs run slightly higher for 3-5 days after donating. Your immediate levels shouldn’t be influenced either way — you won’t suddenly spike or bottom out. Doctors do say your A1c or HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin, which measures one’s 3-month blood sugar level) may be falsely lowered, a temporary effect thought to be caused by blood loss and accelerated red blood cell turnover.

If you want to donate, but are concerned about the health consequences, talk to your doctor first. After donating it’s crucial to closely monitor your blood sugar levels and re-nourish your body. Increase your fluid intake and consider eating more iron-rich foods for a few days. Be smart. Use common sense. Take care of yourself the same way you always would.

US donor requirements

  • to be in good overall health (the day they plan to donate)
  • have a weight of 110 pounds or more
  • be at least 17 years old (in most states)

When you arrive to donate, a donation professional will take you through a screening process requiring you to disclose any health conditions, including T1D. You should be ready to provide additional information on your diabetes and the medications you’re taking. As long as your BGLs are within a normal range, your blood is acceptable for donation. Blood with too much sugar in it doesn’t store well.

If you pass the general health test and your levels are stable, the only remaining factor is the source of your insulin. Those who have used bovine-derived insulin any time between now and 1980 are disqualified from donating due to the risk of vCJD (mad cow disease). Studies have shown a small possibility that mad cow can be passed through blood transfusions.

UK donor requirements

NHS Blood and Transplant (the governing health organization responsible for blood) refuses blood donations from those who may be put at greater health risk by giving. Sadly they lump most diabetes patients into this category. They also refuse blood from anyone taking any form of insulin, whether via injections or pump therapy, disqualifying Type 1 patients from donating.

Australia donor requirements

Much like the United States, diabetes patients are eligible to donate via the Red Cross as long as they have no complications from their diabetes — such as eye, blood vessel, or kidney problems — and their BGLs are under control. If you’ve used bovine-derived insulin in the past, however, you may not be eligible.

Canada donor requirements

Canada does not allow people with Type 1 diabetes to donate blood.


Read Heart Health & T1D.