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.
- Donors can donate once they have reached their 17th birthday.
- 1st time donors can donate up to their sixty-sixth birthday.
- Regular donors (i.e. those who give at least one donation in a two year period) can continue to donate beyond 70 years, provided they remain otherwise fit and well.
- Donors should weigh at least 50kg (7 stone 12 pounds).
- If you are a female & aged less than 20 years old additional height and weight criteria apply. We need to estimate your blood volume before deciding if you can donate.
- There is no upper weight limit. However, our donation beds will safely accommodate a donor weighing up to 25 stone (158kg).
Blood CountDonors 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Heart disease.
- Chronic lung disease (you can donate if you have asthma provided you have no symptoms at the time of donation and you do not require high doses of anti-asthma medication).
- Stroke and Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) ("mini-stroke").
- Epilepsy and other central nervous system disease.
- Cancer (even if you had this a long time ago).
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis)
- Autoimmune disease (e.g. Rheumatoid arthritis, SLE - systemic lupus erythematous) if you have required treatment to suppress the condition in the last 12 months. Taking painkilling drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and having physical therapy such as physiotherapy etc. are not considered treatments to suppress the condition.
You can donate if you have:
- Diabetes, provided you have not had any diabetic related complications, and any oral medication you are taking has not been changed in type or dose in the last 4 weeks. You cannot donate if you are taking insulin.
- High blood pressure/ high cholesterol, provided you have not had any complications, and any medication you are taking has not been changed in type or dose in the last 4 weeks.
- Genetic HaemochromatosisBlood from Genetic Haemochromatosis (GH) patients can be used for transfusion to patients. GH patients must meet the same selection rules as apply to other blood donors. GH patients wishing to donate their blood can attend the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) instead of the hospital or GP clinic following a referral from their supervising doctor. To find out more about the service we provide and how to be referred, please click here.
You must not donate if you are known to be positive for:
- HTLV (Human T-cell lymphotropic virus)
- Malaria (click here for further information - directs visitors to travel section)
- Current Sexually transmitted disease (e.g. chlamydia, genital herpes, and syphilis).Note many donors with treated syphilis will persistently test positive to the screening tests, even if treated many years ago. Therefore, if you have ever had syphilis unfortunately you will not be able to donate.
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:
- attending for a cervical smear, mammogram, or a well person clinic when no abnormality is expected
- or for the routine monitoring of a condition, such as diabetes controlled by diet or oral medication, which of itself would not be a cause for deferral.
Surgery and endoscopy
- Major Surgery: You should not donate if you have had any surgical procedure within the last 6 months resulting in an inability to return to normal activities of daily living (e.g. routine housework, previous employment and/or driving)
- Other surgery: If not major surgery you must wait at least 7 days before donating
- Endoscopy: You should not donate if you have had any flexible endoscopic procedure (e.g. flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, OGD) within the last 6 months.If the examination has been carried out with a rigid endoscope (e.g. colposcopies, most arthroscopes & laproscopies) and you are well and not waiting for further tests or results, you should be able to donate.
- Upcoming surgery: You should not donate if you are waiting for surgery that is likely to require transfusion or you are having surgery for any serious medical condition.
- Colds and coughs: You can donate once you are recovering.
- Cold sore: You should wait until it is healing and for a few days after the pain has subsided before donating.
- Sore throat: You should wait for a week after recovery before donating and 7 days from finishing any antibiotics.
- Measles, mumps, chickenpox, shingles, rubella: You can donate if it has been more than 2 weeks since recovery
- Influenza: You can donate if it has been more than 2 weeks since recovery
- Antibiotics: You should not donate if taking antibiotics. You must wait at least 7 days from completing antibiotics before donating.
- Diarrhoea and/or vomiting: You can donate if it has been more than 2 weeks since recovery. We also ask you to contact us if you develop diarrhoea and/or vomiting in the 2 weeks after donating. FREECALL 0500 534 669
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 have ever received money or drugs for sex.
- You have ever injected, or been injected with, drugs; even a long time ago or only once.This includes bodybuilding drugs and injectable tanning agents. You may be able to give if a doctor prescribed the drugs. Please ask.
You must not donate for at least 12 months after sex (even if you used a condom or other protective) with:
- A partner who is, or you think may be:
- HIV or HTLV positive
- a Hepatitis B carrier
- a Hepatitis C carrier
- (if you are a man) another man. This includes anal and oral sex.
- (if you are a woman) a man who has ever had oral or anal sex with another man, even if they used a condom or other protective.
- A partner who has ever received money or drugs for sex
- A partner who has ever injected, or been injected with, drugs; even a long time ago or only once.This includes bodybuilding drugs and injectable tanning agents. You may be able to give if a doctor prescribed the drugs. Please ask.
- A partner who has, or you think may have been, sexually active in parts of the world where HIV/AIDS is very common.This includes most countries in Africa. There are exceptions, so please ask.
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:
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
- Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
- Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV)
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:
- It is 3 years since completing anti-malarial therapy
- All symptoms caused by malaria have resolvedand
- 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:
- Europe: Croatia, Greece and Greek Islands, Hungary, Israel, Italy including Sardinia and Sicily, Kosovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, parts of Russia, Serbia, Turkey
- Africa: Algeria, Tunisia
- America: all regions of the USA except Hawaii, Alaska and US Virgin Islands
- Canada: all regions
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:
- You were born in South or Central America, or your mother was born in South or Central America.However in these cases we can offer a T.cruzi antibody test.
- You have lived and/or worked in rural subsistence farming communities in these countries for a continuous period of 4 weeks or more
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.
MedicationThe 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.
- Antibiotics: you must wait at least 7 days from completing antibiotics before donation.
- Contraceptive use: you can donate if taking contraceptives.
- Hormone replacement therapy: if you are on treatment for the menopause, its symptoms, or for osteoporosis prevention you can donate.
- Blood pressure and cholesterol tablets: you can donate provided your medication has not been changed in type or dose in the last 4 weeks. You must also not have had any complications of your condition.
- Tablets for diabetes: you can donate provided your medication has not been changed in type or dose in the last 4 weeks. You should not donate if you are on insulin or have had any diabetic related complications.
- Anti-depressants and anti-anxiolytics: maintenance treatment for anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder does not exclude you as a donor provided your condition is stable.
- Painkillers: The reason for treatment will be assessed. If you are otherwise fit to donate, we can accept you as a donor. The blood of anyone who has taken drugs in the last 7 days that can interfere with platelet function (e.g. aspirin, plavix, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be used for red cells but may not be suitable for platelets.
- Anticoagulant therapy (e.g. warfarin): you should not donate if receiving anticoagulant treatment.
Live vaccinations (including BCG, MMR, oral polio, smallpox) - You must not donate if:
- a) Less than 8 weeks from administration
- b) the inoculation site has not healed
Killed vaccinations (e.g. Influenza):
- If not exposed, for non-live immunizations other than Hepatitis B, if well on the day, you can donate.
- Hepatitis B vaccine: if no exposure you must wait at least 7 days after last immunization was given.
- Tetanus: you must not donate if it is less than 4 weeks from exposure to a tetanus risk injury or receipt of tetanus immunoglobulin. If you were not exposed but given tetanus immunization as a precautionary measure, you can donate.
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.