Directed Blood Donation

Parents sometimes ask about giving their own blood for their child. This is called a directed blood donation. This brochure explains directed blood donations. It also answers many of the questions parents ask.

What is a directed blood donation?

A directed blood donation is giving blood for one person, most often a member of the family.

Canadian Blood Services policy on directed blood donations

Canadian Blood Services' (CBS) policy on directed blood donations is that only parents or legal guardians can give their blood for their minor child. No other family member can give blood for a child.

Is directed blood donation safer than volunteer blood donation?

There is no evidence that directed blood donations are safer than donations from CBS’s volunteer donor program. The volunteer donor program is their regular blood supply. Although all blood is tested, all blood donations have a very small chance that they may pass on an infection when the blood is given to others.

Sometimes, because a child may react to blood from family members, the parents’ blood may be less safe than regular blood for their child.

All blood donated by parents must be treated with radiation (irradiated). This is done to prevent graft-versus-host disease. Graft-versus-host disease happens when the donor’s (the parent’s) white blood cells attack the child’s tissues. Although this is a rare disease, it almost always causes death when it happens. Irradiation kills off the white blood cells so they cannot cause graft-versus-host disease.

Is autologous blood donation safer than directed blood donation?

When children donate blood for their own use, it is called an autologous blood donation. Autologous blood donations are safer than directed blood donations. Your child should have an autologous blood donation instead of a directed donation if she is big enough and well enough to donate blood. Your child should weigh about 20 kilograms (44 pounds) or more to donate blood for his or her own use. CBS and some hospitals have autologous blood donation programs.

For more information, please see “Autologous Blood Donation.”

Donating blood for your child

You may give blood for your child’s use ONLY if your child is having an operation that is not an emergency AND your child is very likely to need blood.

You may also give blood for your child’s use if your child needs the blood because of a medical problem that is not an emergency.

It takes at least 5 days to get a directed blood donation after you ask for one.

How you will know if you can give blood for your child

You can give blood for your child if your blood type matches your child’s blood type AND your blood is free of infection.

You may not donate for your child if you have any medical condition that would exclude you as a blood donor, such as a previous history of one of the following:

  • malaria, or recent travel to a country where malaria is often or always present (endemic)
  • hepatitis
  • cancer
  • heart disease

You must fulfil all volunteer donor criteria, as posted on the CBS website: www.blood.ca

You and your child must be tested to find out whether your blood types match. If your blood type does not match your child’s, you cannot give blood for your child.

If your blood type does match your child’s, your child’s doctor will complete and sign a CBS directed blood donation request form. Only your child’s doctor can ask CBS to let you give blood for your child.

Where you will give blood

When CBS gets the signed request form from your child’s doctor, someone from CBS will call you. That person will tell you when and where to go to give blood for your child.

At the CBS blood donor clinic, you will go through the same process that a regular blood donor does. You will be asked questions about your health and your blood will be tested for infections, including the virus that causes AIDS. Your blood will only be used for your child if your blood shows no signs of infection.

Where donated blood is stored

Your donated blood will be stored at CBS until all the tests are done. Testing usually takes about 2 or 3 days. If all the tests are normal, your blood will be sent to the hospital’s Blood Transfusion Lab and stored for up to 42 days (6 weeks). If your blood is not used within 42 days, it will be thrown away. Red blood cells for transfusion are only good for 42 days after collection.

What happens if you have not given enough blood

If your child needs more blood than you have given, your child will get blood from CBS’s regular blood supply. If needed, your child may also get special blood products such as albumin and clotting-factor concentrates from CBS. You cannot get these products from a directed blood donation.

Key points

  • A directed blood donation is giving blood for one person. This person is most often a member of the family.
  • Canadian Blood Services (CBS) only allows parents or legal guardians to give blood to their minor child.
  • You can give blood if your blood type matches your child’s and is free of infection.
  • You will give blood at a CBS blood donor clinic.

Kathleen McShane, ART

Kim Mellor, RN, BScN

Wendy Lau, MD, FRCPC

Transfusion Advisory Group

12/15/2010

At SickKids:

The Hospital for Sick Children's policy about directed blood donations is like the CBS policy. That means that only parents and legal guardians of minor children can give their blood for their child.

If you want to know more about the SickKids policy on directed blood donations, please call the blood conservation co-ordinator at 416-813-6264.





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