While donating blood is always important, Sunday morning's horrific tragedy in Orlando along with World Blood Donor Day just a few days afterwards has brought donation awareness to an all-time high. Blood donors are always needed, as hospitals use donated blood daily to treat all kinds of patients and 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.
If you're unsure, there's really no need to worry. When you arrive to donate blood, the first thing they'll do is ask about your medical history, and this is the appropriate time to bring up your tattoo history. The American Red Cross has compiled a list of each state and their tattoo laws, and they can help you get to the bottom of it pretty simply. They're stoked you're there to do your part, and are more than happy to help with whatever questions you may have- so don't hesitate to ask.
If you find that you are in fact not eligible to give blood at that time, there's no need to worry- you can plan ahead. The American Red Cross has a blood drive calendar that you can easily refer to in order to plan a date that works for you.
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.
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.