While donating blood is always important, the horrific 2016 Orlando attack has brought donation awareness to an all-time high. Blood donors are always needed, as hospitals use blood daily to treat all kinds of patients, not just in response to tragic events - so, regardless of the timing, you should know your facts and where to start as far as doing your part to contribute.
The first and most important step when donating blood is knowing whether or not you're eligible to do so. Coincidentally, one of the most common questions associated with this is whether you're able to donate if you have tattoos. This may seem silly to some, but it's an extremely valid question- after all, you're putting a needle into your skin like a bajillion times- and the answer is: It depends.
For the most part, having tattoos does not affect your eligibility to donate blood. 9 times out of 10, this will not be an issue. However, there are some exceptions. Sometimes, it's necessary to wait a year after receiving a tattoo before you're able to safely donate- and this depends entirely on whether or not you received your tattoo in a state-regulated tattoo facility.
Yes, even badass tattooers have to abide by laws sometimes. There are two reasons for tattoo shops being regulated, and they're big ones.
The first reason has everything to do with the age of the client. In the US, there is no federal law that regulates the practice of tattooing. However, every single state has laws regarding it. Mainly, these are statutory laws. This just means that you must be 18 or older to receive a tattoo. This stems from the basic fact that a minor may not enter a legal contract for any kinda of procedure- and a tattoo falls under that category, along with piercings and other forms of body modification. Some states allow underage tattooing with parental consent- and others outright prohibit it no matter what. It's important to know where your state stands.
The second reason is of course, regarding medical safety. If a tattoo shop isn't clean and every single piece of equipment isn't sterilized, getting tattooed there can be extremely risky. Blood-borne infections like hepatitis B, C, and HIV/AIDS can be easily transmitted by a needle that's been used on a previous client without sterilization. Ink can also host viruses and bacteria. Simply un-wiped countertops or re-used gloves can also be a huge cause for transmitting disease to unsuspecting clients.
That all being said, I highly doubt many people know (hell, I don't) whether or not the institution where they received their most recent tattoo is state-regulated or not. To make it even more confusing, some states leave regulation up to individual cities. So, unless it was like, in your friend's living room or in the back of a van, in which case, you can pretty much assume that it is in fact NOT regulated- you may have a tricky time finding a clear-cut answer. That's okay, and totally common.
There is no need to feel bad for not being able to donate directly in the wake of a tragedy such as this weekend's in Orlando. Sure, we all want to help as quickly as possible in direct response to horrific events like the one our country has just experienced, but blood is ALWAYS NEEDED.
Studies show that there's a patient who needs blood every 2 seconds. Every. 2. Seconds. That is a shit ton of blood. So, no matter how long you may have to wait, for whatever reason- you are helping someone, somewhere, who is desperately in need. Your donation is invaluable.
It's so unbelievably important to be educated and to spread awareness about blood donation- especially to your tattooed friends who may not think they're able to contribute. Chances are, they can- and every little bit helps. Spread the word.
If you have any other questions, go check out the American Red Cross website for more information. And last but not least, in the wake of this unthinkable tragedy- be safe, stay strong, and love one another.