Héma-Québec

Donor Qualification

Can I give blood?

So you’ve decided to give blood today? Fantastic!

Héma-Québec is duty bound to check the qualifications of everyone who shows up to make a donation, whether it is whole blood, plasma or platelet. In other words, Héma-Québec makes sure that each of these potential donors meets the entire range of criteria established to ensure the safety of both donors and recipients.

You may be excluded from giving blood. For various reasons, the exclusion may be temporary or permanent. A Héma-Québec nurse assigned to the selection procedure will explain why you are being excluded.

Qualification criteria

The qualification criteria are reviewed and assessed on a regular basis. They are, therefore, subject to change.

Here are several of the qualification criteria; this list is not exhaustive.

Take note that some criteria apply more specifically to people who have traveled outside Canada (for example, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and malaria).

ACUPUNCTURE OR ELECTROLYSIS You may give blood only if your treatment involves disposable needles or personal kit. Otherwise, you must wait 6 months.
AGE To donate blood, you must be at least 18 years old.
ALLERGIES You may give blood if you feel well on clinic day. Otherwise, you must wait until symptoms abate. You may also give after an allergy injection.
BREAST- FEEDING You cannot give blood during the first 6 months of breast-feeding.
CHOLESTEROL You may give blood.
CREUTZFELDT-JAKOB (variant)
This criterion was modified on July 6, 2005. Blood donors currently excluded because of this measure must phone the 1 800 847-2525 before showing up at a blood drive. Héma-Québec representatives will assess their admissibility to blood donation with respect to stays abroad according to the revised criterion. You must be able to provide the following information: the country or countries you have traveled to, the duration of your stay as well as the return dates.

Donors are excluded on a permanent basis for the following reasons:
  • People who have spent one month or more in the United Kingdom between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1996 inclusively.* UK includes: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
  • People who have spent three months or more in France between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1996 inclusively.
  • People who have spent six months or more in Western Europe since January 1, 1980. Western Europe includes: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and Switzerland. Note that the time spent in the United Kingdom and France since January 1, 1997 must not be included in the cumulative period.
  • People having received a blood transfusion (blood, red cells platelets or plasma) in the Western Europe since January 1, 1980.
DENTIST Filling and cleaning: you cannot give blood the day of the treatment.

Extraction, dental surgery and root canal: you must wait 3 days after end of treatment (providing full recovery).
DIABETES If treated by oral medications, you may give blood. If treated by insulin injections, you cannot give blood.
IMPRISONMENT OR INCARCERATION If you have been in jail for longer than 3 consecutive days, refrain from donating for a period of 12 months following your release.
INFLUENZA AND COLD You may give if you don't have any fever. Otherwise, you must wait until symptoms and fever disappear.
MALARIA You must be able to provide the following information at the interview with the nurse on a blood drive: the country or countries you have traveled to in the past 3 years as well as the return dates.
MEDICATION In most cases, taking medication does not prevent people from giving blood. Rather, it is the condition being treated with the medication that prohibits blood donation. There are, however, certain medications that can pose a risk to blood donors and/or recipients. If you are taking any of the following medications, you cannot give blood.

You must be able to provide the medications’ names at a blood drive.
BODY PIERCING You must wait 6 months.
PREGNANCY / CHILD BIRTH / BREAST- FEEDING You must wait 6 months after giving birth.
SORE THROAT You must wait until all symptoms completely disappear and complete recovery.
TATTOOS You must wait 6 months.
VACCINATIONS Vaccination against influenza (or flu): you must wait 2 days.

Any others vaccinations, you must refer to a Héma-Québec nurse.

You must be able to provide the vaccinations’ names at a blood drive.
WEIGHT You must weigh at least 110 pounds (50 Kg).

Cases of exclusion

Temporary exclusion

Héma-Québec makes donor and recipient safety equal priorities. This means that even though donations of whole blood, plasma and platelets are always necessary, some people can be temporarily excluded from the donation process for various reasons.

The following list of reasons for temporary exclusion is not exhaustive.

  • Body temperature above 37.5°C
  • Blood pressure over 180/100 mmHg
  • Hemoglobin level too low (< 12.5 g/dL)
  • Recent vaccination
  • Recent major surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Travel to a country where malaria is prevalent
  • If you are taking certain medications

People who are temporarily excluded from donating blood are invited to return after the prescribed waiting period, depending on their condition.

Permanent exclusion

In order to protect both the donor and the patient-recipient in equal measure, some people are excluded from making donations on a permanent basis.

The following situations constitute justification for permanent exclusion from making donations. (This list is not exclusive.)

  • Certain kinds of hepatitis (B or C, for example)
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Diabetes controlled by insulin
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Ischemic heart failure
  • Renal problems
  • Coronary bypass
  • Multiple sclerosis

Potential donors may also be excluded on a permanent basis for the following reasons:

  • if you are taking certain medicine
  • People who have spent one month or more in the United Kingdom between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1996 inclusively.* UK includes: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
  • People who have spent three months or more in France between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1996 inclusively.
  • People who have spent six months or more in Western Europe since January 1, 1980. Western Europe includes: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and Switzerland. Note that the time spent in the United Kingdom and France since January 1, 1997 must not be included in the cumulative period.
  • People having received a blood transfusion (blood, red cells platelets or plasma) in the Western Europe since January 1, 1980.

For more information on variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).

Qualification at the time of collection

The evaluation of a potential donor’s eligibility to give blood, part of Héma-Québec’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its products, is based on a health questionnaire, checking the donor’s vital signs and verifying the hemoglobin level of all individuals who arrive at a blood drive or a Globule Blood Donor Centre.

Health questionnaire

In order to ensure donor and patient safety, it is important to be aware of some details concerning the donor’s state of health and whether the donor has been involved in activities that carry a risk of blood contamination.

For this reason, everyone who wishes to make a blood donation must complete a questionnaire (420 KB, PDF) about their state of health so we can ensure that they meet Héma-Québec’s qualification criteria.

Anyone who does not meet these criteria cannot give blood.

Vital signs

A Héma-Québec nurse checks the donor’s vital signs to ensure they fall within an acceptable range: blood pressure, pulse, temperature.

The nurse also examines the donor’s arms to ensure that there are no signs of intravenous drug use.

Anyone whose vital signs do not fall within an acceptable range cannot give blood.

Hemoglobin test

The hemoglobin test is administered to ensure that the red blood cells in your blood contain sufficient levels of an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin.

To check your hemoglobin level, a Héma-Québec nurse will take a drop of blood by pricking the end of your finger.

If your hemoglobin level is too low, the nurse will inform you.

A hemoglobin level that is too low means that giving blood could cause you discomfort since your body could take more time to regenerate the 450 mL of blood you would donate. This situation could, however, only be temporary, and you could be able to give blood again in 56 days. It is important to note that even if your hemoglobin level is low on the day of the clinic, you can still be in excellent health.

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Last Update: 20.09.2006

Héma-Québec Foundation