“I have diabetes, can I donate blood or bone marrow?” This is an excellent question, and is frequently asked by Canadians with diabetes who wish to give blood.
If you take insulin, you are not eligible to donate. The rationale is that donating blood could interrupt your blood glucose control, and potentially lead to a hypoglycemic reaction in the clinic or on the way home.
If you manage your diabetes with lifestyle or diabetes pills, you may be eligible, depending on your overall health and if you meet the eligibility criteria listed below. Many people who have type 2 diabetes have blood pressure and heart problems, which would prevent them from donating.
Canadian Blood Services divides willing donors into 3 categories: those who can donate right away, those who can donate after a waiting period (temporary deferrals) and those who cannot donate (indefinite deferrals). Some criteria for each category are listed below. These rules are in place to protect both the donor and to ensure the safety of the Canadian blood supply.
Please note that this information is subject to change. Final eligibility determination rests with the screening staff at the donor clinic.
Basic Eligibility to Donate:
Between 17 and 71 birthday (regular donor), or between 17 and 61 birthday (first-time donor). To continue donating after the 71 birthday, regular donors should contact Canadian Blood Services prior to donation for further eligibility information.
At least 50 kg (110 lb).
Frequency of Donation
Minimum interval between blood donations is 56 days.
In general good health and feeling well. You should have had something to eat and adequate sleep. You must also meet hemoglobin (iron) requirements (test done at clinic).
At the time of donation, you will be asked a number of questions to determine your eligibility.
Prospective blood and/or bone marrow donors may be unable to donate for reasons that could either compromise their own health or the safety of the blood supply or marrow product.
Common reasons why people may be temporarily deferred (i.e. ineligible to donate) are listed below. This is not a comprehensive list owing to the many factors that can determine a donor’s eligibility and is subject to change.
If you have diabetes that is treated by diet or oral medications (i.e. hypoglycemics), you may be eligible to donate blood. It is important to note that each donor is different, and the use of certain medications or other underlying conditions may be cause for deferral. Please call the Canadian Blood Services location closest to you and ask to speak to someone on the Medical staff.
If your diabetes is treated with insulin, you are not eligible to donate blood. Please note that this information is subject to change. Final eligibility determination rests with the screening staff at the donor clinic.
- Minor illness
Donors are required to feel well at the time of donation. A cold, flu or allergies may prevent someone from donating.
Some medications, or the underlying cause for taking the medication may require a temporary deferral. If you are taking any drugs/medications and would like to give blood, please contact Canada Blood Services at 1 888 2 DONATE (1 888 236-6283).
Oral or intranasal use of street drugs/narcotics will result in a temporary deferral.
Taking certain medications may also temporarily defer someone from donating bone marrow. Donors are required to postpone donation for six months following the last dose of some medications.
- Dental Work
For a cleaning or a filling, donors must wait until the day after treatment before donating blood. For an extraction, root canal or dental surgery, donors must wait 72 hours before donating blood - provided there is full recovery.
- Low Hemoglobin Counts
Canadian Blood Services temporarily defers blood donors whose hemoglobin copper sulfate test falls below the standard of 12.5 g/dL.
- Tattoos/Body Piercing
Donors must wait six months after having a tattoo or body piercing before donating blood or bone marrow. The reason for this temporary deferral is the increased risk of Hepatitis C and other infections associated with tattoos and piercing. Other similar procedures that may fall under this category include acupuncture and electrolysis.
Donors are temporarily ineligible to donate blood while pregnant. There is also a six-month waiting period after giving birth before the donor may be eligible to donate blood.
Women who breastfeed are not eligible to donate blood during the first six months of breastfeeding.
There is a six-week temporary ineligibility period for women who miscarry or terminate a pregnancy.
- HIV High Risk Activities
Being the sexual partner of someone who has participated in high risk activities (other than the sexual partner of someone who has tested positive for HIV) will result in a temporary deferral.
- Exposure to Disease/Geographical Deferrals
Exposure to diseases, such as malaria or hepatitis, may result in a temporary deferral. Please contact your local blood centre for further information.
- Recent Major Surgery
If you have had surgery recently, please speak to your local blood centre regarding your eligibility.
- Recent Vaccinations
Recent vaccinations may result in a temporary deferral. For example, there is a two-day deferral period after receiving a shot for influenza (the flu). Please note that this information is subject to change. Final eligibility determination rests with the screening staff at the donor clinic.
Unfortunately, some people may not be able to donate. Serious health problems, possible exposure to infectious disease(s), or participation in high-risk activities can defer some prospective donors, indefinitely.
Indefinite Deferral Criteria are subject to change.
If your diabetes is treated with insulin, you are ineligible to donate blood.
- Geographic Deferrals:
People who have lived in certain regions of Africa, who may have been exposed to a new strain of the virus that causes AIDS (HIV-I Group O), are not eligible to donate blood. People who have received a blood transfusion while visiting there or who have had sex with someone that has lived there, are also not permitted to donate blood. This is not based on race or ethnicity but possible exposure to HIV-I Group O. Countries included are: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger and Nigeria.
- Possible Exposure to Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD) or variant CJD:
People are not eligible to donate blood or plasma if they have spent a cumulative total of three months or more in the United Kingdom (U.K.) between January 1980, and December 31, 1996, or if they have spent a cumulative total of three months or more in France between January 1980, and December 31, 1996, or if they have spent a cumulative total of five years or more in Western Europe outside the U.K. or France since 1980.
In addition, people will no longer be eligible to donate blood or plasma if they have had a blood transfusion in the U.K., France or Western Europe since 1980. This is owing to the risk of transmission of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) through blood.
- HIV High Risk Activities:
There are a number of high-risk activities for acquiring HIV/AIDS that can indefinitely defer people from giving blood. People who have taken money or drugs for sex, since 1977 cannot give blood.
All men who have had sex with another man, even once, since 1977 are indefinitely deferred. This is based on current scientific knowledge and statistical information that shows that men who have had sex with other men are at greater risk for HIV/AIDS infection than other people.
Intravenous use of illegal street drugs/narcotics also constitutes a HIV high risk activity and results in indefinite deferral.
For the safety of the donor and for the safety of the patients who receive blood, donations are not taken from people with some medical conditions. For more specific information on disease related deferrals, please contact your local blood donor clinic.
- False Reactive (False Positive) Test Results:
Unfortunately, a test result of “false-reactive” or “false positive” is an indefinite deferral at this time. The tests we use to screen blood are highly sensitive and are designed to detect donations with even the smallest levels of infection. However, because the tests are so sensitive, in some cases they react non-specifically with proteins in people’s blood and the result comes up “reactive” (positive). When we then confirm the test using a different, more specific assay that has different sensitivity levels, it will not confirm positive, and that is what we refer to as a “false reactive” or “false positive”.
Canadian Blood Services is looking at introducing re-entry protocols that would permit us to re-test donors. This process is complex and requires approval of our regulator, Health Canada, but we are beginning to develop the necessary evidence to request such an approval of practice from the Regulator. One of the reasons we believe this is important is precisely because Canadian Blood Services regards every donor lost as a serious loss, and we do not take this lightly.
If you donate blood
On the day you donate, keep to your regular meal plan. Be sure to have something to eat and drink before making the donation. Snacks and drinks are provided at the donation clinic site. Check your blood glucose levels, record any changes and respond to them accordingly. If you have any questions or feel faint or unwell after you donate, speak to clinic staff. Donors should avoid strenuous activity for about 6-8 hours after donating blood.
Donating blood does not put you at risk of disease. All needles are sterile, used only once and discarded. The usual blood collection - a “unit” - is about half a litre (450 mL), or one pint. Your body soon replaces all the blood you donate.
To be eligible to join the Canadian Blood Services OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, you must:
- Be between 17 and 50 years of age
- Meet certain health-related criteria
- Fall between certain height and weight levels