Donating blood


The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is the State body with responsibility for the collection, processing, testing and distribution of blood and blood products.

Why give blood?

  • Over 3,000 donations are needed every week
  • 1 in 4 of us will need a transfusion at some point in our lives

Donating blood

To become a blood donor you must be in good health, between 18 and 65 years of age and weigh at least 50kgs (7st 12lbs). You can donate every 90 days.

When you volunteer to give blood, you will be asked to register your details with the IBTS and to fill in a health and lifestyle questionaire. All the information you give will be treated in the strictest confidence.

A drop of blood taken from your fingertip will be analysed for haemoglobin (iron level) content. After the medical screening process, you will be shown to a donation bed. A pressure cuff will be put around your upper arm and the area will be cleaned with an antiseptic.

A doctor or nurse will then insert a needle that is attached to a blood bag. The bag is kept out of sight below the level of the bed. It holds 470 mls of blood (just under a pint). You will be asked to open and close your hand to ensure smooth blood flow. There is no risk of contracting any disease by donating blood. A new sterile blood pack is used for every donor. It is never reused.

The donation itself takes about 8 minutes but you should allow 60–90 minutes in total for your visit. After the donation you rest and are served refreshments.

Testing donated blood

To ensure the safety of blood supplies, the IBTS tests every donation for a number of diseases including Hepatitis B, HIV and Hepatitis C.

Donating platelets

Platelets are small blood cells that are present in the blood of all healthy people and are essential to enable blood to clot properly. Patients who do not have enough platelets in their blood are prone to spontaneous bleeding and are also likely to bleed too much during surgery.

Platelets have a shelf-life of just 5–7 days after donation, so it is important to maintain a constant supply.

Over 22,000 platelet transfusions are needed every year in Ireland, and this number is continuing to rise. Most of these platelets go to patients with serious medical conditions such as cancer or leukaemia, especially those receiving chemotherapy or after a bone marrow transplant.

Platelets may also be needed by:

  • Patients undergoing major surgery
  • Burns patients
  • Accident victims who have had extensive injury
  • New born babies who are born with low platelet counts

Bone Marrow Registry

The Irish Unrelated Bone Marrow Registry (IUBMR) is a register of people who are willing to donate their bone marrow if they are found to match a patient needing a bone marrow transplant. The IUBMR is part of a worldwide network of unrelated donor registries. The decision to become an unrelated bone marrow donor requires careful consideration.

Read more about the Irish Unrelated Bone Marrow Registry.


Who is eligible to donate blood?

Before coming to a clinic to give blood, please check if you are eligible to donate.

Never give blood if:

  • You have received a blood transfusion (other than an autologous transfusion of your own blood) in Ireland on or after the 1st January 1980
  • You received a blood transfusion (other than an autologous transfusion of your own blood) outside Ireland at anytime
  • You have ever used a needle to take unprescribed drugs, this includes body building drugs
  • You or your partner are HIV positive
  • You have had Hepatitis B or C

You should not donate blood for 12 months if:

  • You have visited a malarial area
  • You have been pregnant

You should not donate blood for 4 months if:

  • You have had a tattoo or a body piercing

You should not donate blood for 3 months if:

  • You have visited a tropical area

You should not donate blood for 1 month if you have had contact with infectious diseases (where you have not been previously infected), for example, chicken pox, mumps, measles or German measles.

If you have travelled to an area at risk of West Nile Virus, you should wait 28 days after returning before you donate blood.

You must be fully recovered for 2 weeks if you have had the flu or been on antibiotics.

You should not donate blood until fully recovered if you have a cold.

If you are on long-term medication, you should contact the IBTS before donating.

If you are aged 65–69 you can only donate blood if you have given blood in the last 10 years. If you are aged over 70 you can donate blood if you have given blood in the last 2 years and you have a certificate of fitness from your GP.

Who is eligible to donate platelets?

You may be suitable to become a platelet donor if you:

  • Are blood group O, A, B or AB
  • Are between 18 and 59 years of age
  • Weigh over 9 stone 7 pounds (60kg)

You cannot become a platelet donor if:

  • You have ever received a blood transfusion
  • You have ever been pregnant
  • You need to take aspirin or anti-inflammatories regularly

You do not need to give blood first to become a platelet donor. However, if you have not given blood in Ireland in the last 5 years you must first give a sample for testing.

How to apply

Giving blood

To find out if you can give blood you can take an eligibility quiz. There are 14 questions and it takes about a minute to complete.

If you have any queries about donating blood, you can contact the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Information Line on 1850 731 137.

You can get more information on

Donating platelets

If you would like to schedule an appointment for an assessment to become a platelet donor please fill in the Online Platelet Application Form or contact 01 432 2833 (Dublin) or 021 480 7429 (Cork).

Bone marrow donations

Register for the Bone Marrow Panel by using the online application form.

Where to apply

View the dates and times of clinics in your area.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service

National Blood Centre
James's Street
Dublin 8

Tel: (01) 432 2800
Locall: Information Line 1850 731 137
Fax: (01) 432 2930
Page edited: 3 October 2019