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Updated 15 June 2018

Who cannot donate blood in SA?

While many people would like to donate blood to save lives, for some people it just isn't possible.

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The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) has saved and continues to save lives with the blood they collect from donors around the country.

The SANBS encourages people to donate blood at various donation centres, or at pop-up locations like malls or at your office, but not everyone is always eligible to donate blood.

The SANBS tries their utmost not to turn people away when they're willing to donate blood. Ivor Hobbs, regional marketing manager for the organisation, told Health24 that they try to limit the number of deferrals, while keeping the safety of donors and recipients in mind.

No negative impacts

For example, those who are feeling ill with flu-like symptoms are deferred for about a week (seven days) or they can donate when they are free of the symptoms. If, however, you have been diagnosed with a condition like hepatitis B or C, this justifies a permanent deferral, which means you will never be able to donate blood.

Hobbs said the most common deferral the organisation sees is for low iron levels.

"This is to ensure that we do not negatively affect the donor's iron reserves and that there is enough blood for the patients and for the donor.

"Some of the other reasons include: Deferrals for visiting malaria areas, blood pressure and lifestyle. Every donor is carefully assessed to ensure that it's safe to donate and that the blood, which will eventually be issued to the patient, is safe. Roughly 18% of all donors who present to donate are deferred."

Timelines

The organisation has a brief list of conditions on their website, which are considered grounds for a deferral, but each condition has a timeline attached to it. Certain conditions have a temporary timeline, but there are others which are classified as permanent deferrals. They also have a comprehensive list of deferrals for conditions which aren't listed in the brief list.

  • Not feeling well, sore throat, cold, respiratory infection, flu, cold sore: You can donate when you're symptom-free, i.e. about seven days.
  • Antibiotics: Seven days after treatment is over
  • Ear, body piercings and acupuncture: Six months after procedure, unless done under sterile conditions. If sterile needles were used, there is no waiting period.
  • Tattoos, permanent make-up: Six months
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Three months following a normal delivery and six months following a C-section. Mothers who breastfeed can return once breastfeeding has been stopped.
  • Routine dental work: One day
  • Complicated dental work: Three days
  • Major surgery: Six months, provided there are no complications. If you received blood or blood products, you may not donate for six months.
  • Taking aspirin: No waiting period for donating blood, but seven days before donating platelets
  • Malaria: Three years after completion of treatment
  • Travel to a malaria area: Four weeks after returning from malaria area
  • Grew up in a malaria area outside SA: If time absent from the area is more than three years (with no visits back to the area), the donor is permitted to donate if they fit all the criteria. If the time absent is less than three years (the donor has revisited the malaria area within three years even after having donated), they must wait for another three years.
  • Low iron level: Three to 12 months, depending on iron levels
  • Hepatitis: Hepatitis A (yellow jaundice): one year after recovery, but needs a doctor’s letter to confirm, unless donor had yellow jaundice before age 13. Hepatitis B and C involve a permanent deferral, which means you will never be able to donate blood.
  • Medication: In most cases, medication doesn’t disqualify you as a blood donor. You can bring your medication or the name of the medication with you and check with the sister in charge of the clinic for clarification. As long as the condition is under control (and for blood pressure medication you have been on the same medication for at least four weeks), blood donation is usually allowed.
  • Donors over the age of 65 years: New donors are not accepted after 65 years of age. For their protection, regular donors have up to their 68th birthday to bring a letter from their doctor stating their medication (if any), and that they are fit and well to donate blood. It is recommended that donors over the age of 65 not donate more frequently than four times a year.

The comprehensive list of deferrals gives the details of many other conditions and the timeline associated with the deferral.

Hobbs said, “The deferral criteria is constantly evaluated by the SANBS medical team to ensure that the safety of both the donor and the patients is protected. Regular revisions to the criteria are issued to ensure that the practices maintain relevance."

Image credit: iStock

 
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