Colds, Viruses, COVID-19 & Blood Donation: The Complete Guide

There are a lot of questions out there regarding blood donations and what factors make someone eligible or ineligible to donate. During the cold and flu season, many of these questions relate to — you guessed it — colds, flu, and COVID-19. Today, we’ll tell you what you need to know about donating blood and how it relates to the most common viruses. Let’s get into it!

Can You Donate Blood If You Have a Cold or the Flu?

Simply put — no. You should not donate blood if you are sick with a cold or the flu. This is for your safety. If you’ve scheduled an appointment to give blood and realize you’re not feeling well the day of your donation, it is best to reschedule that appointment. A good rule of thumb is that you should be symptom-free for at least 48 hours prior to your donation. Make sure you’re not running a fever or experiencing cold- or flu-related symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, sniffles, or fatigue. 

Note: this doesn’t mean anything is ‘wrong’ with your blood. This is for your safety.

Why is it so important to stay well before donating blood? Your body relies on your blood to fight sickness, so it’s always a bad idea to give blood while your immune system is compromised. Donating blood while sick can further compromise your immunity, perpetuate cold and flu symptoms, and even make those symptoms worse. In extreme cases, you could even develop pneumonia. 

With this precaution in mind, it’s important to remember that while donating blood can overwhelm an already compromised immune system, it will not make you sick if you are already feeling well. A healthy body will recover quickly after donating blood. 

What About Donating Blood After a Flu Shot?

Getting the flu is likely not on your annual to-do list, so getting a flu shot every year is a good idea. If you are worried that getting a flu vaccine will affect your blood donation eligibility, don’t be. As long as you feel well, it is perfectly fine to donate blood after receiving a flu shot — even if it’s on the same day! 

Donating Blood and COVID-19

Understandably, there are quite a few questions surrounding blood donations and COVID-19. If you are experiencing COVID symptoms or symptoms from any illness, it’s in your best interest not to donate blood. Instead, we recommend you see a doctor and take a COVID test. The American Red Cross suggests waiting 10 days after a positive COVID test without symptoms or 14 days after COVID symptoms have completely cleared to give blood. If you plan to donate blood and tested positive for COVID-19 or experienced COVID symptoms in the past 10 days, we strongly encourage you to reschedule your donation appointment for another day. 

But what about COVID vaccines? Do those impact your ability to donate? We’re happy to report that they do not. If you have been vaccinated or boosted for COVID-19, you are still eligible to donate blood. Much like the yearly flu vaccine, you can even donate on the same day you receive the vaccine.  As long as you feel well, go ahead and head to that donation appointment. Just make sure to drink plenty of water beforehand!

We want our generous, life-saving donors to stay well, so we encourage you to follow the above advice if you come down with a cold, the flu, or COVID-19. If you become sick, remember to drink plenty of fluids, get some rest, and see a physician to ensure that you are on the path to wellness. When you feel like yourself and are ready to donate blood again, we will be thrilled to see you at The Blood Connection!