Gotten a tattoo recently? Extend your arm for a different purpose. Save a life by donating blood

Rules around tattoos and blood donation have changed. If you’ve gotten a tattoo within the past year, you can donate blood — and the need is greater than ever.
July 19, 2021
Zoe Finn donates blood recently after getting a tattoo. Photo by Kati Blocker, UCHealth.
Zoe Finn donates blood recently after getting a tattoo. Photo by Kati Blocker, UCHealth.

Zoe Finn, 27, has gotten a new tattoo almost annually for the past decade.

“The most recent one is always my favorite,” she said. She has a few on her back, one on her leg, and her most recent goal is to complete the “sleeve” on her arm.

When she goes for her tattoo, she picks a design that she likes or makes her feel a certain way, but sometimes, it’s a design that just fits nicely within an open spot on her arm.

Donor eligibility rules change for military veterans who served in Europe between 1980 and 1996

Military veterans who served in Europe between 1980 and 1996 can now donate blood, according to officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The ban, which was first enacted in the 1980s, was lifted by the FDA last year in response to reductions in blood donations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the new guidelines, persons who had been ineligible because they resided for six months or more on U.S. military bases in Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands between 1980 and 1990, or on bases in Greece, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Italy between 1980 and 1996 may now be eligible to donate blood. Read more about FDA changes to blood donations.

Recently, Finn extended her arm for a different purpose. For the first time, she donated blood.

Can I donate blood after getting a tattoo?

Donating a pint of whole blood took about 45 minutes — less time than it took to get most of her tattoos — and she potentially saved three lives. Finn said she would have donated sooner but had once been told she had to wait a year after getting a tattoo.

“I went to donate blood once in college but was told I couldn’t because of the rules,” Finn said.

Those rules have changed. Most people can donate blood immediately after getting inked, as long as the tattoo was applied at a state-regulated entity that uses sterile needles and ink that is not reused. Colorado regulates tattoo parlors; only Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania do not. If you’ve gotten inked at a Colorado tattoo parlor, you can donate blood immediately.

Why should you consider donating blood?

Nationally, 36,000 units of red blood cells, 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S., according to the America Red Cross. Right now, that average demand is even higher, depleting the nation’s inventory of blood products and requiring the American Red Cross and other blood donor organizations to plea for new donors to help meet demand.

Blood saves lives, and one donation may save up to three.

In northern Colorado, someone requires a blood transfusion every 37 minutes, according to Bridget Aesoph, donor recruiter for Garth Englund Blood Donation Center.

Blood facts

Blood is composed of several important components. Plasma is the base, made of mostly water. Red blood cells pick up oxygen from the lungs and transport it via the circulatory system to every cell in the body, providing energy. Platelets help the blood clot to reduce bleeding after injury, the first step toward healing damaged tissues. Each of these blood parts can be safely transfused to patients that need them when in the hospital.

All blood donated through UCHealth Garth Englund Blood Donation Centers stays local. It helps patients at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Greeley Hospital and Estes Park Medical Center.

Blood products are not only needed for trauma patients — up to 100 pints of blood products per patient — but women with complications during pregnancy sometimes need a blood transfusion. Children with severe anemia and many who have complex medical or surgical procedures need blood transfusions. Cancer patients also need these products.

Traditionally, during the summer and the holiday months when the number of trauma patients increases, so do uses for the blood. This summer, more people are expected to travel now that they have been vaccinated and hospitals are caring for people who deferred care during the pandemic and now have more advanced diseases, increasing the need for blood transfusions, according to an American Red Cross press release dated June 12, 2021.

Donating blood is easy

Donating blood is about a 45-minute process, but the actual donation — of one pint — takes about eight to 10 minutes. People can donate every 56 days, but the body replenishes the fluid lost during donation within 24 hours. It is important to eat a good meal and hydrate the day before and the day of a donation.

UCHealth Garth Englund at Fort Collins is now open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Donations can be scheduled at either of Garth Englund’s blood donor centers in northern Colorado – the center at 1025 Pennock Place in Fort Collins or the center at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies, 2500 Rocky Mountain Ave., in Loveland. Interested donors should call 970.495.8965 or fill out this form to schedule an appointment at either of these locations.

Other organizations outside northern Colorado also operate blood donation centers and host blood drives. Contact your local blood donation center today to donate.

To donate, a person must be at least 18 years old (or 17 with a parent’s permission) and show photo identification. New donors must weigh at least 120 pounds and be in good health. Prior donors must weigh at least 110 pounds. Donors can donate 14 days after having a COVID-19 vaccination.

Show off that ink and give the gift of life. Sign up to donate blood today.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.