Why Traveling Taints Your Ability to Give Blood

Why Traveling Taints Your Ability to Give Blood

Traveling abroad can be such a rewarding experience, but it may come with a price; at least, when it comes to donating blood to others. In past visits to your local phlebotomy clinic, you might have noticed the lengthy questionnaire that asks about illness, prescribed medications, allergies and recent trips out of the country. Well, especially with the final item in the aforementioned list, there’s a reason for this.

Traveling to certain countries can cause you to become ineligible to donate blood because of diseases you could have been exposed to during your visit. Even if you have taken the proper precautions and received all of the immunizations required for visiting a certain location, the chance of exposure is just too dangerous to risk. Trained specialists have learned in their phlebotomy classes to be aware of what diseases your body could have been exposed to, even if you didn’t get sick.

travel can affect your ability to donate blood

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Not only does where you travel restrict your ability to give blood, but also the time you were there. If you have lived in or visited any city in Europe for an extended period of time in the past 35 years, you are ineligible to donate blood because of the risk of mad cow disease. For example, taking some time to study abroad may put you at risk to never be able to donate blood again.

The reason for this precaution is that some infections and diseases acquired abroad can be transmitted through donated blood. This can have severe and sometimes even fatal consequences, as in the case of malaria, for example. You will be asked questions like: where you traveled, when you returned, how long you were there, etc. These are all relevant questions.

Most countries that are on the “do not donate” list are at a huge risk for malaria. Visiting most countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia will inhibit your ability to donate for at least a year. Unbeknownst to most, malaria is one of the most common blood diseases around the world and is a nightmare for experts of phlebotomy and those participating in phlebotomy classes. Malaria is transmitted by mosquito bites in certain countries and can be transmitted to patients. Blood donations are not tested for malaria because there is no reliable blood test that exists to detect malaria.

If you have spent an extended period of time outside of the country for military service, study abroad classes, humanitarian work, or even a simple vacation, check to make sure that you are still eligible to donate blood before you have your heart set on participating in such an act of service.

Keep in mind that phlebotomy specialists aren’t trying to insult you or accuse you of being infested with diseases, it is simply a precautionary measure to keep those in need of blood transfusions safe from diseases carried through blood.

As taught in phlebotomy classes, blood has a short shelf life and the supply needs to be stocked and restocked continuously; however they will not bother with the risk of storing and using blood that’s been exposed to life-threatening disease, so if you have traveled out of the country, be aware that you could be turned away.

Blood donation requirements are regularly updated in countries around the world, so it’s no surprise that donors are asked about their travel history every time they donate. Most people who have travelled abroad recently are able to donate, but in some cases donors may have to delay giving blood. For example, travel to areas at risk for the Chikungunya virus require travelers to wait 4 weeks after return before they can donate. Note that if they have displayed any symptoms of the Chikungunya virus infection, they must wait 6 months before donating.

For other infections (e.g., malaria and West Nile Virus), blood tests may be administered to clear the donor to give blood sooner.