Can I donate?

Donors are selected firstly to ensure that they do not come to any harm from giving their donation and secondly to ensure that their donation is unlikely to harm any recipient. Only persons in good health will be accepted as donors. All donors will be evaluated for their fitness to donate on the day by a suitably qualified person.

What are the basic requirements for being a blood donor?

Age

Weight

Blood Count

Donors need to have an adequate haemoglobin (blood count) to donate. Haemoglobin levels have been set at 12.5g/dl for females and 13.5g/dl for males. Donors will have their blood count checked each time they come to donate. We do this by taking a tiny drop of blood from the fingertip.

How often can I donate?

Female donors can give blood every 16 weeks (every 4 months or 3 times in a 12 month period). Male donors can now give blood every 12 weeks (every 3 months or 4 times in a 12 month period). NIBTS will however continue to send out invitations to both male and female donors approximately every 16 weeks.

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Reasons why you can't donate

Age and weight

You should not donate if you are under 17 years of age, or if you are a 1st time donor beyond your 66th birthday. You should not donate if you weigh less than 50kg (7 stone 12 lbs.) See above for further information.

Timing of last donation

You should not donate if you are a man and have given blood within the last 12 weeks, or if you are a woman and have given blood within the last 16 weeks.

Haemoglobin level

We cannot accept a donation from you if your haemoglobin (blood count) is below 13.5g/dl for a man or 12.5g/dl for a woman.

A 500ml donation of whole blood contains about 250mg of iron. Taking a donation from you if your haemoglobin level is below the recommended value may make you anaemic.

Pregnancy

You should not donate if you are pregnant or less than 6 months have passed since delivery or pregnancy. During pregnancy a woman loses a considerable amount of iron to the baby. It is important to allow time for this lost iron to be replaced through the mother's diet.

Medical Conditions

There are a number of medical conditions that exclude you from becoming a donor. This is to protect both your health and the health of the recipient. These include:

You can donate if you have:

Infectious disease

You must not donate if you are known to be positive for:

Investigations

A donor must not donate if waiting for investigation or the results of investigations for an undiagnosed condition which might lead to deferral. It is fine to donate for 'routine' investigations, such as:

Surgery and endoscopy

General Health

Dentistry

Filling, scale and polish: Wait 24 hours before donating

Extraction, root canal treatment, dental capping (crown): Wait 7 days before donating

Tattoos, Body piercing and Acupuncture

You should not donate if you have had a tattoo, ear or body piercing, or permanent and semi-permanent make-up within the last 12 months.

If you have had acupuncture performed by NHS staff or outside the NHS by a Qualified Health Care Professional, you can donate. If neither of these apply, you should not donate for 12 months after completing treatment.

Sexual Relationships & Lifestyle

You must never donate if:

You must not donate for at least 12 months after sex (even if you used a condom or other protective) with:

Men who have sex with men

The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) advises UK ministers and health departments on the most appropriate ways to ensure the safety of blood, cells, tissues and organs for transfusion/transplantation. SaBTO had previously conducted a review of the blood donor selection criteria which had led to a recommendation to change the deferral period of men who have had sex with men (MSM) from lifetime to 12 months. This recommendation was accepted by three of the UK health ministers and as of 7th November 2011 was operational in England, Wales and Scotland. On the 2 June 2016 the Northern Ireland Minister of Health announced her decision to end the lifetime deferral on blood donation by men who have had sex with men, and to move to a twelve-month blood deferral policy. As instructed, NIBTS have implemented this change on 01 September 2016. From this date, men who last had sexual contact with another man more than 12 months ago are able to give blood in Northern Ireland if they meet the other blood donor selection criteria.

Why is the deferral period 12 months?

Statistically, men who have sex with men have a higher risk of acquiring blood-borne diseases, infections and viruses. Using protection like a condom can reduce this risk, but it doesn't eliminate it. That is why we can't collect blood from men who have had oral or anal sex with men, with or without protection, in the last 12 months. This decision is based on statistical risks for the sexual behaviour that increases the risk of virus transmission. We test every blood donation for the following infections:

Some donors also undergo additional tests e.g. Hepatitis E, Malaria and Chagas' disease. For donors who have recently acquired infections, there remains a small possibility that our tests will not be able to pick up the infection. If someone was to donate blood during this time, known as a window period, it would be possible to transmit an infection. Due to the nature of HBV infection it is necessary to allow at least 12 months from any high risk activity before accepting a donation. The change brings the criteria for men who have sex with men in line with other groups that are deferred from blood donation for 12 months due to sexual behaviours. Donor adherence with this and all donor selection criteria is paramount to the safety of the blood supply.

Travel: Malaria

If you have visited any malarial endemic area please wait for 12 months after your return before donating blood.

If you have ever been resident in a malarial endemic area for 6 months or more, and at least 6 months have passed since leaving the area we can offer you a test for malarial antibody, you if it is negative you may then donate.

If you have had malaria diagnosed in the past you may donate if:

  1. It is 3 years since completing anti-malarial therapy
  2. All symptoms caused by malaria have resolvedand
  3. Our test for malarial antibody is negative

Travel: West Nile Virus

West Nile virus (WNV) is a flavivirus, which causes a wide spectrum of infection. This may range from no or minimal symptoms to death. It is geographically widespread, including areas in Europe and other parts of the world not affected by Malaria. It has reached epidemic proportions in North America in recent years. There it has caused illness and death post transfusion and post transplantation of tissues and organs. It is spread by mosquitoes and so is more prevalent at times of the year when mosquitoes are active.

West Nile Virus endemic areas include:

Please note that areas affected by WNV may change on a frequent basis. For the most up to date information, please search under country name at this link: http://www.transfusionguidelines.org.uk/index.aspx?Publication=GDRI&Section=66)

If you have travelled to a WNV area between 1st May and 30th November you must wait 28 days before you can donate.

Travel: Chagas Disease (South American Trypanosomiasis)

Chagas disease is caused by infection with a protozoal parasite, trypanosoma cruzi. It is a persistent infection that is known to be transmitted by transfusion. The insect that passes the infection on is only common in rural areas. It is very common in parts of South or Central America and is often symptomless.

You must not donate if:

We may be able to accept you as a donor if at least 6 months have passed following the date of last exposure, provided a test for T.cruzi antibody is negative.

Short term trips such as camping or trekking in the jungle in South or Central America are usually not considered of high enough risk to warrant exclusion.

Medication

The taking of some drugs may make a donor ineligible. In most circumstances it is the condition that a drug is being taken for, rather than the drug itself, that will lead to deferral.

Vaccination

Live vaccinations (including BCG, MMR, oral polio, smallpox) - You must not donate if:

Killed vaccinations (e.g. Influenza):

Previous blood transfusion

You should not donate if you have received, or think you may have received a blood transfusion anywhere in the world since January 1st 1980. This also applies to any human tissue you may have received from another individual (dura mater grafts, corneal and scleral tissue grafts, human pituitary derived extracts) This was introduced in 2004 as one of the measures to reduce the risk of variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (vCJD).

You should not donate if diagnosed with any form of CJD, or you have had two or more blood relatives develop a prion-associated disease.

Hazardous Hobbies and Occupations

A hazardous activity is something that may put either the donor or others at high risk of serious injury or death if the donor were to suffer a delayed faint following donation.

Examples of hazardous activities include: climbing, diving, motor sport, parachuting.

Examples of hazardous occupations include but are not limited to: air traffic controllers, crane or heavy machine operators, fire crew, large goods vehicle drivers.

You must not donate if you are required to undertake a hazardous activity following donation on the same working day.

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