One of most often requested emergency supplies is donated blood. The Red Cross and other response agencies try and maintain a stockpile of screened blood, safe to use in case of sudden increase in demand. This is one of those supplies used in response to hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and medical crises, anytime that you have large numbers of people sick or injured. The breakdown in sanitation and food supplies that often follow environmental disasters often bring greater needs for emergency response than the initial crisis.

Body piercing and tattooing, being medically invasive procedures, can limit or prevent you from being able to donate blood. As tattooing is regulated individually by state, the rules governing tattooing vary widely across the country. A health historian usually discusses each donorÕs particular situation at the time of donation, and a determination is made at that time.

The primary concern in such cases is the risk of blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis and HIV. The greatest risk in a tattoo situation is hepatitis. The C variety is especially known for the virus being able to live on an exposed surface for up to six months. It is also somewhat resistant to some cleaning products. In most cases of transmission, the hepatitis or HIV is passed along due to shared instruments or ink cups that were Òdouble dippedÓ instead of being used single service only.

I encourage those who wish to get tattooed to always research the guidelines of the state you live in, and take your time researching your choice of tattoo parlor. Taking time to talk with the artists about their qualifications and watching how the shop is run is also paramount to making a good decision. Looking through the flash book is good, but watching to see if they observe appropriate procedures to avoid cross-contamination is more important in the long run.

The following are the guidelines put forth by the Red Cross for body art and blood donation:

Piercing (ears, body)
Acceptable as long as the instruments used were sterile, one time use.

Wait 12 months if there is any question whether or not the instruments used were sterile and free of blood contamination. This requirement is related to concerns about hepatitis.

Wait 12 months after a tattoo if the tattoo was applied in a state that does not regulate tattoo facilities. This requirement is related to concerns about hepatitis.

Acceptable if the tattoo was applied by a state-regulated entity using sterile technique. Only a few states currently regulate tattoo facilities, so most donors with tattoos must wait 12 months after tattoo application before donating blood. You should discuss your particular situation with the health historian at the time of donation.
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