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Can you donate blood if you have multiple sclerosis?

Whether you can donate blood if you have MS depends where you live. Different agencies are responsible for collecting and distributing blood in each country, and have different rules. PwMS can donate blood in the US but not in the UK, Australia, Canada or New Zealand. There are also a number of medications which can exclude you from being allowed to give blood, and if you are experiencing an MS relapse or MS fatigue you should not give blood.

person donating blood with nurse

Giving blood if you live in the UK, Canada, New Zealand & Australia 

You will not be able to donate blood or be a bone marrow donor in the UK, Canada, New Zealand or Australia. 

The reason given is because the cause of MS is still unknown, there is a concern that it could be passed to another person through blood. Patient safety (donor and recipient) is the highest priority for blood services, so they are extremely cautious. 

Giving blood if you live in the USA 

Yes, you can donate blood if you have multiple sclerosis, however you will need to fit the other criteria and not be taking any medication that will stop you being able to donate. This has been the case since 2007. 

Standard Guidelines according to the American Red Cross:

  • Not being currently sick

  • Being at least 17 years old (or 16 with parental consent)

  • Weighing at least 110 pounds

  • Not having given blood within the last eight weeks

  • Not being pregnant

  • Not having recently travelled to an area where malaria is found

Other considerations 

  • You should check with the individual centre as some have been known to reject people with MS. 

  • Donating blood shouldn’t make your MS worse. But it is advised not to take risks if you are currently experiencing a relapse. 

  • If you are experiencing MS fatigue you might want to consider avoiding donating blood, as most healthy blood donors will feel a bit tired for a few days after donating. 

Can you donate blood if you are on medication?

  • Check with the centre for any DMDs that will exclude you from giving a blood donation. 

  • Also check for any other medications you may be taking.

Persons on these DMTs have waiting periods following their last dose before they can donate blood:

  • Aubagio (teriflunomide) – wait 2 years. As this can cause birth defects in unborn babies if transfused to a pregnant woman 

Other considerations 

Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) and Tysabri (natalizumab), are powerful disease-modifying therapies which can predispose you to infections. Tysabri has been associated with a life-threatening infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), which would potentially endanger the recipient, therefore could exclude you from being able to donate blood. 

In many countries, people who have received alemtuzumab are told that if they ever need a blood transfusion in the future, the blood should be irradiated. The latest (draft) guidelines from the British Society of Haematology recommend there is no need for people receiving alemtuzumab for multiple sclerosis to have irradiated blood transfusions.  

Giving blood if you live in another country 

Check the website for the agency responsible for accepting blood donations in the country where you live. 

Information by country 

English speaking countries: 

For other countries, check individual websites to see if you can donate blood: 

References 

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