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Red Cross Lists Requirements for Young Blood Donors

The American Red Cross has special height and weight requirements for all blood donors 18 years of age and younger to help ensure their safety.

This policy, put in place in September of 2009, affects all high school students, regardless of their age, who try to donate at a high school blood drive, as well as all donors 18 years of age and younger who try to donate at any bloodmobile. Boys who are shorter than 5’ and girls who are shorter than 5’6” must weigh more than 110 pounds, depending on their height.

Young blood donors are more likely to have a reaction after giving blood. This can be something minor such as dizziness or lightheadedness. However, fainting and more serious reactions can occur.

Many of these reactions are attributed to a young donor’s low blood volume. Previously, donors had to be in good health, 17 years of age or older, and weigh 110 pounds or more. These latest requirements were enacted to help ensure people will lose only a relatively small amount of their total blood volume.

“Some high school students who were able to give blood previously are now deferred from donating,” said Anne Eder, MD PhD, Executive Medical Officer, American Red Cross. “But these measures are necessary to keep young donors as safe as possible.”

The measures taken to protect adolescent blood donors have been successful. In the 2009 school year, an estimated 18,000 donor reactions including more than 250 faints among 16-18-year-old donors were likely prevented because of the new requirements.

Students are not weighed and measured, but are asked to confidentially give their height and weight. Anyone who is deferred can help by organizing blood drives, or volunteering when the bloodmobile visits their school. To learn more about how to be a Red Cross volunteer, or for further questions on eligibility, please call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).