So you think you can’t donate? Check to be sure, to help us help patients

January 12, 2023
Blood donor in donation chair with arm extended

The fine details and latest updates about blood and plasma donor eligibility may surprise you

We are so grateful to the blood, platelet and plasma donors who supported Canada’s Lifeline over a challenging holiday period. As the impacts of winter weather and illness continue, we need many more people to book now for patients’ sake.

This is a great time to double check your eligibility to donate. Even if you expected you could never donate again, you may be able to resume because of updates to our donation criteria. In the last three months alone, about 500 callers to our 1 888 2 DONATE hotline have discovered just that!

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Attention newly eligible donors

If you’re newly eligible and donated for the first time, or were able to resume donating after changes to eligibility criteria, we’d love to hear from you! Share your experience on our My Story page, or post on social and tag us @canadaslifeline. We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok. Your story can inspire so many more.

Read on for a taste of the info we’ve been sharing with recent callers. And if, like them, you’ve been deferred in the past, please call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) to discuss your eligibility before booking an appointment.

Some gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are now eligible to donate

Two men donating blood and an employee standing there wearing red Canadian Blood Services logo shirt.
Eligibility criteria changes in September 2022 made it possible for Jacob Chevrier, far right, to donate blood. He’s seen here next to his partner Tanner Tuplin, a Canadian Blood Services employee, and Tanner’s parents Glen (donating at left) and Lee Anne (also a Canadian Blood Services employee).

In September 2022, screening questions specific to sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men were removed from our donor questionnaire. Instead, all who wish to donate are now asked the same questions about sexual history.

Because of this change, more gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men who could not previously donate are now eligible. Learn more about sexual behaviour-based screening.

Many who have lived in Europe and Saudi Arabia became eligible in 2022

A blood donor holding a first-time donor sticker
Jen McKay, who lived in Switzerland for five years, made her first blood donation in early 2022. She became eligible because of a change in donor eligibility criteria related to vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease).

In February 2022, people who have lived in Saudi Arabia or many European countries (outside the UK, the Republic of Ireland and France) became eligible to donate blood, plasma and platelets. These changes were a result of updates to eligibility criteria for preventing variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Most prescribed medications are not a barrier to donating

Additionally, even if a particular medication was the cause to stop donating, you may be eligible today because of changes in medication-related criteria.

Check out the “medications” section of our ABCs of eligibility to learn more, and to see a list of commonly prescribed medications that are acceptable when donating blood or plasma.

Many cancer survivors can donate blood, plasma and platelets

A blood donor in donation chair with a sign that says “first time donation.”
Lara Turner made her first blood donation in Guelph, Ont., in October 2022, six years after receiving blood and platelets during her own cancer treatment.

Previously, people were not eligible to donate after cancer diagnosis and full treatment. As of July 2016, this criteria has changed.

Today, people can be eligible to donate after five years cancer-free for most cancer types. Check out the “cancer” section in our ABCs of eligibility to learn more.

You may be eligible to donate even if you have had heart trouble

After treatment for heart conditions such as a heart attack, you may be eligible to donate. You can call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) to discuss your condition.

There is no upper age limit for donating blood, plasma and platelets

A man standing beside his bicycle
Aldric d’Entremont has been donating blood regularly since age 17. Now in his 80s, he’s donated 220 times and counting.

The upper age limit was removed in 2016. Anyone 17 years or older may be eligible to donate. See “age” in our ABCs of eligibility for more details.



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A note about donors and travel

Every time you donate, we ask about where you may have previously lived or travelled. This is because the places you’ve lived in and travelled to can expose you to different infections that may be transmitted by blood donation. You can see our travel page for full details.

Did you know that in 2020, we made important updates affecting donors who have returned from short-term travel? They affect those who have spent time in areas where medications to prevent malaria are recommended.

If your stay in one of those areas was less than six months, you only need to wait three months to donate blood or platelets. And if your stay was less than one day, or if you are a plasma donor, you may be able to donate sooner.

Blood donor standing with his arms crossed outdoors
“Because India is a malaria risk area and I travel there often, I become ineligible to donate blood for some time after I return,” says Ranjit Singh Panesar, who has donated plasma in Brampton, Ont. “But I can still donate plasma after travel to India.”

Plasma donation a great option for some international travellers

If you can’t donate whole blood or platelets because you recently lived in or returned from a place where medications to prevent malaria are recommended — or if you have had malaria yourself — you may still be able to donate plasma. The eligibility criteria are different because when medications are made from plasma, the malaria parasite is removed.

At our dedicated plasma donor centres, there is no waiting period related to travel to malaria-endemic areas (outside the 21-day waiting period that applies to all donors after international travel outside the continental U.S., Europe and Antarctica).

If you’ve never tried donating plasma, why not give it a whirl after your vacation?

You can also be eligible to donate plasma after a malaria infection (starting six months after recovery). Unfortunately, people who have had malaria are not eligible to donate whole blood or platelets.

Ready to donate blood, plasma or platelets? Book now at or by using the GiveBlood app. You can also explore all ways to give. Together, we are Canada’s Lifeline.

NOTE: All donor eligibility information in this article is current as of the date of publication. The very latest information is always available on our ABCs of eligibility page.

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