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.

Take our eligibility quiz

Are you aged between 17 and 65?

Basic requirements of a blood donor

Age - Blood Donor

  • 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.

Weight - Blood Donor

  • 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 Count - Blood Donor

  • Donors need to have an adequate haemoglobin (blood count) to donate.
  • Haemoglobin levels have been set at 125 g/l for females and 135 g/l 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 blood?

  • 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.
Basic requirements of a platelet donor

Age - Platelet Donor

  • Donors can donate once they have reached their 18th birthday.
  • 1st time donors can donate up to their sixty-sixth birthday.
  • Must have donated blood at least once before.

Weight - Platelet Donor

  • Donors should weigh at least 70kg (over 11 stone).
  • Have good veins.

Blood Count - Platelet Donor

  • Donors need to have an adequate haemoglobin (blood count) to donate.
  • Haemoglobin levels have been set at 125 g/l for females and 135 g/l 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 platelets?

  • All Platelet donors can donate every 4 weeks.
General Health

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 can donate once you are recovering. If you required antibiotics you must wait 7 days from completing the course.

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, (you must not donate if Diarrhoea is due to Inflammatory bowel disease).

We also ask you to contact us if you develop diarrhoea and/or vomiting in the 2 weeks after donating. FREECALL 08085 534 669.

Medical Conditions

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

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.

High cholesterol

Provided you have not had any complications.

Genetic Haemochromatosis

Blood 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. For more information please contact us.

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.

You can not donate if you have:

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)

A 'mini-stroke'

Epilepsy

Or 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. Painkilling drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy such as physiotherapy are not considered treatments to suppress the condition.

Medication

The taking of some medication may make a donor ineligible. In most circumstances it is the condition that medication is being taken for, rather than the medication 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

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.

Cholesterol medication

You can donate while on medication, if you have Heart Disease or other complications of high cholesterol you can not donate.

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

Medication for anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder does not exclude you as a donor provided your condition is stable.

Painkillers

The reason for taking painkillers will be assessed by our staff. If you are otherwise fit to donate, we can accept you as a donor. The blood of anyone who has taken medication 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

You should not donate if receiving anticoagulant treatment. (e.g. warfarin, rivaroxaban, apixaban and others ) - 

 

Dentistry

Filling, scale and polish

Wait 24 hours before donating.

Extraction, root canal treatment, dental capping (crown)

Wait 7 days before donating.

Surgery

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).

Minor Surgery

For minor 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 4 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.

Travel

For the most up to date information, please search under country name at this link: Geographical Disease Risk Index

 

Malaria

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

If you have ever been resident in a malarial 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 and
  • All symptoms caused by malaria have resolved and
  • Our test for malarial antibody is negative

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 North America and areas in Europe.  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: Geographical Disease Risk Index

If you have travelled to a WNV area between 1st May and 30th November provided you have neither symptoms or evidence of infection you can donate 28 days after you return to Northern Ireland.

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.

Tattoos and Body Piercing

You should not donate if you have had a tattoo, ear or body piercing, or permanent and semi-permanent make-up within the last 4 months.

Complementary Therapies
Complementary Therapies

Acupuncture

If you have had acupuncture performed by NHS staff or outside the NHS by a Qualified Health Care Professional, you can donate.

If you were treated by someone who was not a registered Health Care Professional, you'll have to wait 4 months before you can donate.

 

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.

Sexual Relations & 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 (MSM)

In June 2016 the Northern Ireland Minister of Health announced an end to the lifetime deferral on blood donation by men who have had sex with men.

Currently, men who have sex with men in the last 12 months are deferred from donating blood for a period of 12 months.

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 the 12 month deferral? (MSM)

Why is the deferral period 12 months?

Statistically, men who have sex with men (MSM) 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.

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
  • Hepatitis E virus (HEV)
  • Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV)
  • Syphilis
  • The Northern Ireland Minister of Health announced an end to 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 implemented this change on 1st 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.
  • Some donors also undergo additional tests e.g. 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.

Background information

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 2nd June 2016 the Northern Ireland Minister of Health announced an end to 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 implemented this change on 1st 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.

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.

Medical Investigations / waiting for test results
Waiting for test results or investigations

A donor must not donate if waiting for investigation or the results of investigations for an undiagnosed condition which might lead to deferral.

You can 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.

Endoscopy

You should not donate if you have had any flexible endoscopic procedure (e.g. flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, OGD) within the last 4 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.

Immunization
Immunization

You must not donate having received a Live immunizations (such as: BCG, MMR, oral polio, smallpox) -

  • if it is less than 8 weeks from administration
  • and/or the inoculation site has not healed

Non-live immunizations (e.g. Influenza):

  • Hepatitis B vaccine - if no exposure you must wait at least 7 days after last immunization was given.
  • For non-live immunizations (other than Hepatitis B), if you are well on the day, you can donate.
  • 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.
Hazardous
Hazardous Occupations or Hobbies

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.

Hazardous Occupations examples include but are not limited to -

  • Air traffic controllers
  • Crane or heavy machine operators
  • Fire crew
  • Large goods vehicle drivers

Hazardous Hobbies examples include -

  • Climbing
  • Diving
  • Motor sport
  • Parachuting

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

Infectious Disease
Infectious disease

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

HIV

 

Hepatitis

 

Human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV)

 

Malaria

Please see the travel section for more information.

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.