Hanover/Cologne. A little jab can save lives. But although every third person in this country could donate, only three percent of Germans do it regularly. The blood donation services, hospitals and transfusion doctors repeatedly warn of a shortage of blood donors. The problem gets worse as society gets older.
The most important questions and answers
Who can donate blood?
Basically, every healthy adult over the age of 18 with a minimum weight of 50 kilograms can donate blood in Germany. Since March 2023 there has no longer been a maximum age limit for donating: Doctors always decide individually on site whether a person is fit and suitable for donating blood. Some time must have elapsed for everyone since the last blood donation – how much exactly depends on the type of donation. There is also a difference between women and men: women can donate blood four to five times a year, men can donate it six times a year.
Who is excluded from donating blood?
There are people who are healthy and of the right age to donate blood, but temporarily excluded are. This includes:
- Pregnant women, women who have just given birth and those who have just been vaccinated
- Travelers who have stayed in risk areas for certain diseases. For example, people who were born in a malaria area or who have stayed in such an area for more than six months may only donate blood under certain conditions
- People whose sexual behavior carries an increased risk of transmitting serious infectious diseases (e.g. in the case of sexual intercourse with frequently changing partners)
- People who have had a tattoo, piercing, acupuncture treatment, or other needle exposure up to four months ago
- Convicts and released persons who have been in prison for no more than four months
Record donors: Why Manfred Schaller was happy to do without 105 liters of blood
Manfred Schaller has already donated blood 210 times in his life – more often than anyone else in Siegen. But the record is no reason for him to switch gears: The next appointment is already entered in the calendar. What coincidence led to the first bloodletting and where you can donate blood almost every day in Siegen.
Permanently barred from donating blood are according to the current “Hemotherapy Guideline” the German Medical Association:
- People with certain infections or diseases (e.g. diabetics who take insulin, people with serious heart disease or people with HIV-1 or HIV-2),
- People who use drugs or misuse medicines or who have a reasonable suspicion of doing so
- People who stayed in Great Britain or Northern Ireland for at least six months between 1980 and 1996 (due to an unavoidable risk of transmission of the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease)
If you take medication occasionally or permanently, local doctors will decide whether you can donate blood. When filling out the questionnaire before donating, you must therefore state all the medicines you have taken.
Can gay men donate blood?
Yes, the blood donation ban for gay men who have had sex with a new partner or more than one partner in the past four months was abolished by the Bundestag in March. “Sexual orientation must not be taken into account when assessing the risk that leads to exclusion from donating blood,” says the new version of the Transfusion Act.
For a long time, gay men were completely excluded from donating blood. The previous restrictions date back to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. The concern was that gay men are at higher risk of passing on HIV. “There is evidence that MSM (men who have sex with men Note d. editor) are epidemiologically associated with certain risks of infection,” said transfusion doctor Holger Hackstein from the University Hospital Erlangen in January to the editorial network Germany (RND). But activists and associations complained about hidden discrimination, especially since blood donations are tested for HIV.
How does blood donation work?
Donors must identify themselves, fill out a questionnaire and undergo a medical examination. Once the doctor has confirmed that you are fit to donate, the blood is taken. In the classic whole blood donation, 450 to 500 milliliters flow. This usually takes less than ten minutes. Afterwards, donors are allowed to rest, eat and drink for 20 to 30 minutes – a total of around 45 to 60 minutes should be planned for the whole process.
How do I feel after the donation?
By taking blood, blood pressure and iron levels drop for a short time. In healthy people, the body quickly replenishes the stolen amount of fluid in the blood. It takes longer for the removed blood cells. Here, the body usually needs two weeks to regenerate. After eight weeks, the iron loss in men is balanced again after up to twelve weeks in women. After the blood has been taken, there may be slight circulatory problems, sometimes dizziness or fainting are possible. Anyone who has eaten and drunk enough before and after the acceptance should survive the donation well.
Alcohol, drugs and strenuous exercise should be avoided before and after the donation. And if you don’t feel completely fit anyway, it’s better not to donate on this day.
What happens to my blood after donating blood?
The blood is thoroughly tested in the laboratory and then made available to those who need it. Almost a fifth is now used in cancer treatment. Other areas of application are heart diseases, injuries after accidents or complications during childbirth.
Do I need a blood donor card?
First-time donors will receive a personal donor card after the blood donation, if desired. This is in credit card format and should always be carried with you. It is used for identification and enables future blood donations to be processed more quickly. In addition, the built-in chip stores data about the blood group, the Rhesus and Kell factors, as well as personal information.
Blood donation is also possible without a blood donor card.
Is there an expense allowance for donating blood?
Some services pay an expense allowance, which donors sometimes receive in cash and sometimes as a voucher. For a whole blood donation (450 to 500 milliliters of blood) there can be compensation of 20 euros. There is more money for more complex donations, such as plasma or platelet donations.
The largest German blood donation service, on the other hand, adheres to the ethical code of the Red Cross. Here you can get a snack and the good feeling of having done something for your fellow human beings.
Where can I donate blood near me?
Blood can be donated in most hospitals and university clinics. There are also several blood donation services, such as that of the DRK, which offers mobile blood donation units in addition to stationary centers.
The German Red Cross offers one on its website Appointment search at. Interested parties can simply enter their postal code or the respective location and have the next appointment displayed. The website of the BZgA offers a comprehensive Overview of blood donation services throughout Germany.
We updated this text on June 7, 2023.