Do you know how blood donor screening works and can you donate blood in Canada after a trip to Mexico?

My husband and I recently came back from a six-month stay in Mexico and are back in Ottawa Canada house sitting. It is interesting how you take things for granted – like being a long-time blood donor and thinking that nothing changes.

He has been giving blood (the gift of life) for a very long time, more times than I can count, and decided while we were in Ottawa, he would like to do it again, which meant going through a screening process.

Rules and Regulations of Blood Donor Screening

Being the careful organization that Canadian Blood Services is, he was required to complete a form, something he has to do every time he gives blood. What he learned was that due to us being out of the country, he “could be” ineligible to give blood. Here is a breakdown of some of the rules and regulations for screening blood donations.

Because there is such an extensive range of conditions that can affect your giving a donation, we are going to break them down into categories: ELIGIBLE, MAY BE ELIGIBLE, NOT ELIGIBLE, TRAVEL. Blood donor screening is critical.

But first, do you know the difference between Whole Blood, Plasma, Source Plasma, and Platelets?

  • Whole Blood – Whole blood is human blood from a standard donation and used in the treatment of massive bleeding, exchange transfusions, and when individuals donate blood to themselves. One unit of whole blood brings up hemoglobin levels by about 10 g/l.
  • Plasma – This is a yellowish, straw-like-coloured liquid component of blood that carries cells and proteins throughout the body and makes up about 55% of the body’s total blood volume.
  • Source Plasma – Plasma that is collected from healthy donors through a process called plasmapheresis. Instead of being used for blood transfusions, it is solely manufactured for life-saving treatments.
  • Platelets (tiny blood cells) – A component of the blood that helps your body form blood clots to stop bleeding if one of your blood vessels gets damaged or injured.

    Did you know: An average adult makes approximately 100 billion platelets on a daily basis to keep levels high enough for efficient blood clotting!

Eligible for Blood Donor Screening


If it is performed with disposable or single-use needles, it will not prevent you from giving blood but if you are not sure which needles were used, it is advisable to wait six months before donating.

Age and Weight Requirement:

– Minimum age is 17 but there are guidelines to be followed between ages 17 and 23 IF an individual is a brand new donor.
The bottom line, all donors must be at least 50 kg (110 lbs) to be eligible, regardless of age.
– If you are below the minimum, you ‘may’ become eligible when you turn 23 or move up the chart.


As long as an individual is feeling well; advised to bring prescription medication.


As long as an individual is breathing OK and feeling well; advised to bring prescription medication.

Blood Transfusion:

Eligible with a waiting period of six months.


Breast cancer, Prostate cancer, Colon cancer, Thyroid cancer, Uterine cancer – 5 years after treatments are completed and the individual is considered cancer-free.

Colds and Flu:

As long as an individual is feeling well, not on antibiotics or coughing up phlegm; it is advised to be fully recovered from flu.

Dental Work:

With a waiting period of 1 day after cleaning or filling and 3 days or until fully recovered after extraction, root canal, or surgery.


Type 2 if treated with diet or pills;
– Type 2 if treated with insulin, (depends on when insulin was started).

Donation Interval:

– Whole blood donation – 56 days for males, 84 days for females
– Plasma donation – seven days
– Platelet donation – 14 days


With a waiting period of at least 56 days following contact with the infected person or area. (See more under the Travel section)



It is advised that an individual have an iron-rich diet. Eligibility includes taking multivitamins with iron, iron tablets to prevent low iron, three months after taking iron tablets to treat low iron stores, six months after taking iron tablets to treat deficiency anemia and levels are normal.


With a waiting period of one to three years if time is spent in a region affected by malaria. Some destinations in the Dominican Republic and Mexico could be at risk. (See more in the Travel section)


As long as an individual doesn’t appear intoxicated or unable to give informed consent.


Usually, this is not an issue unless the underlying condition affects the ability to donate. It is best to contact the Canadian Health Services for medications that might not be on this list.

  • Acceptable medications

Medications, Blood Donor Screening

  • Medications that affect the Platelet Function. *Denotes waiting period.

    – Advil *24 hours

    – Aleve *72 hours

    – Arthrotec *72 hours

    – Aspirin *72 hours

    – Ibuprofen *24 hours

    – Indomethacin *24 hours

    – Naproxen *72 hours

    – Piroxicam *14 days

    – Plavix *14 days

Menstrual Cycle/Cramps

Organ/Tissue Transplant:

– There is a waiting period of 12 months;
– If tissue graft comes from one part of your body to another and you are fully recovered. (See further notes under NOT ELIGIBLE)


With a waiting period of three months due to the risk of infection.

Pregnancy (and after Birth):

A wait of six months is required after giving birth;
– Six weeks is required if you have miscarried or terminated a pregnancy;
– Six months of waiting is required if you have received Rh immune globulin injections during the pregnancy. (See further notes under NOT ELIGIBLE)

Sexually Transmitted Disease:

– Eligible if fully covered from Chlamydia;
– Eligible if fully healed from genital herpes;
– HPV/human papillomavirus (venereal warts) is not a cause of deferral. (See further notes under MAY BE ELIGIBLE)

Skin Cancer:

Squamous or basal cell (after treatment).

Skin Conditions (in most cases)


As long as there is no infection and not taking antibiotics.


– Eligible in most cases unless there is an underlying condition that precipitated the surgery. However, if the condition is not a cause for deferral, you must be fully recovered;
– You must wait six months if you receive any blood products during or after surgery.

Tattoos (including Permanent Makeup and Microblading:

– Microblading is a tattooing technique with a small handheld tool consisting of several tiny needles used to add semi-permanent pigment to the skin.
– A waiting period of 3 months is required because of the risk of infection.


There are approximately 40 vaccinations, some with a waiting period, and some without.

UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, it is imperative that all travellers self-isolate and not donate blood for 14 days if travel is outside of Canada. Click here for more information on eligibility.


Getting a needle, blood donor screening


A waiting period of 21 days is required after returning home if you have travelled to locations outside of Canada, the continental U.S., Europe, and Antarctica. (See more in the Travel section.)

Blood Donor Screening for Eligibility


Type 2, if treated with insulin depending on when insulin was started.


If an individual has been seizure-free for six months he/she may be eligible but if taking medication should contact Canadian Blood Services.

False Reactive Test Results:

False reactive means that the first screening test was reactive (suggesting the presence of something to stop an individual from donating blood and another follow-up test was negative).

– Health Canada has recently approved eligible donors to be re-tested after a six-month waiting period.

Heart Conditions:

May possibly be eligible with a heart attack or coronary heart disease.


This is a common hereditary genetic disorder. This means an individual absorbs too much iron from his/her diet and may accumulate in vital organs. An individual is not allowed to donate if there are complications from liver cirrhosis or heart failure.

To be eligible, females’ hemoglobin must be a minimum of 125 g/l (12.5 g/dl)
– Males, as of March 5, 2017, it must be a minimum of 130 g/L (13.0 g/dl)
(g/l means grams per litre; g/ dl means grams per deciliter)


An individual may be able to donate after six months and is fully recovered unless the cause was hepatitis B or C. In that case, if tested positive, one cannot donate.

Sexually Transmitted Disease:

May be eligible if it has been at least one year since treatment was completed for syphilis or gonorrhea. (See further notes under ELIGIBLE)

Blood Screening for Ineligibility


Any evidence of intoxication or inability to give informed consent will prevent an individual from donating. It is advised to avoid alcohol 24 hours before giving blood; if one does drink, they need to make sure to take in lots of extra water.


– When taking medication for an infection, an individual may temporarily be unable to donate;
– It is advised against donating blood if there is an infection present.

Blood Pressure:

If a reading (systolic pressure which is the top number) is below 90 mm Hg (a measurement of pressure in millimetres of mercury) or above 180 mm Hg, an individual is not eligible. If the lower number (diastolic pressure) is below 55 mm Hg or above 100 mg, an individual is not eligible.


If breastfeeding during the first six months after birth. (See further notes under ELIGIBLE)

Crohn’s Disease

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS):

Deferred even if the condition is not active, out of concern for the individual’s health.

cCJD/Mad Cow Disease (Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease, Variant) – not eligible if an individual had:

– 3 months of cumulative stay or more in the UK between January 1980 and December 31, 1996;
– 3 months of cumulative stay or more in France between January 1980 and December 31, 1996;
– 5 years cumulative stay or more in Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Republic of Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein between January 1980 and December 31, 2007;
– Six months cumulative or more in Saudi Arabia from January 1980 to December 31, 1996.


Type 3.


It is advised not to give blood if an individual has:
– Hiv;
– tested positive for HIV;
– put themselves at risk of becoming infected with HIV.


Not allowed to donate if complications have arisen from liver cirrhosis or heart failure.

Leukemia and Lymphoma


If an individual has had a malaria infection, he/she will not be able to donate whole blood or platelets.



Multiple Sclerosis

Organ/Tissue Transplants:

Not eligible if an individual has received a brain covering (dura mater) transplant. (See further notes under ELIGIBLE)

Skin Cancer – Melanoma

Blood Donor Screening and Travel

So, was my husband eligible to give blood after our six-month stay in Mexico? Let’s find out.

Canadian Blood Services wants to make sure that we are not at risk of exposure to diseases from travelling to different parts of the world that are at high risk of certain infections carried by animals, insects, or people, even if we take precautions.

Even if an individual feels well, he/she could be carrying an infection that may be transmitted through a blood transfusion to another person. They also screen for the amount of time spent in those areas.

If travel has taken place outside of Canada, the U.S., and Europe, an individual will have a waiting period of 21 days after they return home. This was introduced to identify travellers acquiring illnesses by mosquitoes such as Zika virus, malaria, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Travelling to a Malaria-Risk Area

IF A stay was less than one day, an individual MAY be able to donate depending on the area he/she was in.

– A wait of one year upon return is required if away less than six months;
– A wait of three years upon return is required if away for more than six months.

If an individual had malaria and it was more than 6 months ago, he/she may be able to donate source plasma which is used to produce products to treat patients.

Note: Ebola – Since those exposed to Ebola are also at risk for Malaria, travellers are deferred for one year.

Whole Countries at Risk

Afghanistan, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burma (Myanmar), Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville), Cote d’ Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa, formerly Zaire), Djibouti, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia (The), Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Sao Tome Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan (Republic of), Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Uganda, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Partial Countries at Risk

Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Cape Verde, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Laos Madagascar, Malaysia, *Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, Suriname, Thailand, Vietnam, Yemen.

Travelling to a (ZIKV) Zika-Risk Area

As mentioned earlier, those who travel outside of Canada, the U.S., and Europe must have a waiting period of 21 days after their return home before giving blood. Even though not all countries outside of these areas have the Zika virus, it is spreading rapidly so to be on the safe side, travel will require this waiting period.

Based on new scientific evidence regarding the persistence of the Zika virus in semen, it is advised that male travellers wait three months (previously it was six) before trying for pregnancy and to always use condoms. It is further advised that male travellers with a pregnant partner refrain from unprotected sex for the duration of the pregnancy (February 2019).

Note: According to the Public Health Agency, Government of Canada, currently there is no specific therapy for the treatment of Zika infection.

Blood Donor Screening for Countries NOT At Risk

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Channel Islands), United States (excludes Hawaii and territories which are * high-risk areas such as Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, Vatican City.

*ALL U.S. and European-administered islands/territories except St. Pierre and Miquelon (France) are at risk such as Martinique, British Virgin Islands, etc.

U. S. territories include Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Midway Island, Wake Island, Palmyra Island, Howland Island, Johnston Island, Baker Island, Kingman Reef, Jarvis Island, and other U. S. islands, cays and reefs that are not part of any of the fifty U.S. states (all at risk).

Final Thoughts

So was my husband at risk of donating blood after his return from *Mexico? The answer is no. Although it is one of the partial countries at risk for Malaria, we were not in the location(s) specified. We were in a little place called Puerto Morelos between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The colour green denotes not at risk. And of course, he passed all the blood donor screening tests.

Risk of Malaria, Blood Donor Screening

As for being at risk for Zika, observe the following:

Although Mexico is NOT listed on the Not at Risk list, The World Health Organization states “There are currently no restrictions against travellers visiting Mexico and both the U.S. Government and Mexican authorities have not placed a general restriction on visiting Mexico but urges precaution against mosquito bites.”

I am very proud of my husband who continues to donate blood year after year. Even though we house sit throughout Canada and Mexico each year, he still makes time to give. One pint of blood can save up to three lives! Don’t let travel stop you from “giving the gift of life.” It may not always be for a stranger…the life you save could be a family member or a dear friend.

If you would like to donate blood in Canada, check out the Canadian Blood Services website for more information or call 1-888-236-6283.  In the U.S. check out the American Red Cross or call 1-800-733-2767.

Why it is important to donate is shown in this 30-second video.

UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, it is imperative that all travellers self-isolate and not donate blood for 14 days if travel is outside of Canada. Click here for more eligibility information.

Medical Disclaimer: This content is for information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If users need medical advice, they should consult a doctor or medical professional.

Do you travel? Do you make time to donate blood? We would love to see your comments below.

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I love to travel and my biggest regret is that I waited so long to do it, thinking I just couldn’t afford it. I have had some crazy fun, met some amazing people, and had some scary moments such as getting locked in a shower at a campsite. For our trip to Mexico, we were able to save money by house sitting, which was something completely new to us. If this is something that interests you, then check out TrustedHousesitters or HouseSitMexico (be sure and use Code thetr6210d47b7cc90). We hope you visit often.

4 thoughts on “Blood Donor Screening-Who Can Give the Gift of Life”

  1. Hi Mary, I must say that this article is very helpful and inspirational. I am a blood donor since high school and I can’t describe how wonderful it is. Feeling that you can save someone life is really priceless and I would like to encourage all healthy people to start giving their blood because it really means other people and it takes just half an hour to do that. 

    My mom is a healthy person but she really has a phobia of blood and needle so there is no such thing can force her but we should also have an understanding for such people.

    • Thanks Daniel. 

      I agree that it sure does feel good and like you say, it doesn’t take much time out of your day.

      I understand about your mom. I had a friend who would literally faint at the sight of blood. She would go with good intentions. One minute she would be standing and then the next she wasn’t. So I too think we should be tolerant and understanding of others.

  2. Wow Mary Ann you’ve done an excellent job with this article! I always have been very curious and interested in donating blood. I think I’m O- and I think it’s one that can give to a big group of blood types? Not sure about that as I’m no expert in this.

    I love how informative is your article and pretty much you’ve covered all my questions! I’m breastfeeding yet my son is two years old and eating solids pretty much, so I think I’m eligible to give blood? I’ll ask to the doctor to double check.

    It makes sense to not donate blood (for a while, until all is clear that you are healthy clean) if you’ve been in any of the countries with more exposure to diseases. 

    Your article has remind me to look for a blood bank next time I go to town and see if I can donate blood. So thanks for the reminder 😉

    • Hello! I am glad you found the article helpful. When I did my research, I certainly didn’t realize there were so many rules and conditions but I am happy to know how thorough Blood Services is. 

      I would definitely check with your doctor first to see if you can donate.

      Good luck with finding a blood bank close to you. I think you will feel really good afterwards :).


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