Who can and can not donate blood in Japan

[Correction: Accidentally typed Australia at first below, should have been Austria all along.]

There has been a lot of confusion over who exactly is allowed to donate blood according to Japanese regulations, especially foreigners. To try and clarify the situation I have translated the entire list of categories of persons who are NOT allowed to donate blood in Japan, from the Japanese Red Cross official web page.

The biggest confusion is regulations relating to foreigners, especially because of mad cow disease aka spongiform encephalitis (Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease).

The following categories of people are BANNED from donating blood in Japan.

Please do not clog blood donations centers if there is even a chance you fall into one of the following categories, and instead find some other way to help.

Please also note first of all that ANYBODY who has entered Japan in the last four weeks may NOT give blood.

First, the rules relating to BSE/Mad Cow Disease

To clarify the below rules, please calculate your TOTAL amount of time spent in ANY of the countries in categories 1~4 during the relevant risk period for that country. If your total period of time in a high-risk country during a high-risk period is equal to 6 months or more than you are banned from blood donations for life.

Similarly, if you have spent a total of 5 years total in any of the countries listed in all 6 categories during risk periods, then you are banned from blood donations for life in Japan unless a new medical test in the future causes the regulations to change.

Please note that no countries in North or South America are on this list; despite the worries over Canadian/US beef it was never transmitted to humans.

  1. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 30+ days in the UK between the years 1980 and 1996.

  2. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+months in the UK between 1997 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,3,4 in this total.)

  3. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+ months in Ireland, Italy, Holland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, between the years of 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,4 in this total.)

  4. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+ months in Switzerland between the years of 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,4 in this total.)

  5. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 5+ years in Australia, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, between the years 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,3,4,6 in this total.)

  6. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 5+ years in Iceland, Albania, Andorra, Croatia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Vatican City, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Lichtenstein, Romania, between the years of 1980 through the present day.  (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,3,4,5 in this total.)

Next the rules relating to blood parasite diseases.

  • Anybody who has entered the country in the past four weeks.

  • Anybody who has entered Japan after visitinga malaria high-risk area within the last year. This is true even if you were only at a resort area of the country. HOWEVER, if you have been specifically tested for malaria and been found negative you may donate blood.

  • Anybody who has entered Japan after living in a malaria high-risk area within the last three years.

  • Anybody who has ever lived in a region known for Chagas Disease, AKA American trypanosomiasis. (This is a blood parasite like malaria.)

  • Anybody recently returned from Africa or who has lived in Africa and ever tested positive for African trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness.)

  • Anybody who has ever tested positive for babesiosis, another blood parasite most commonly found in tropical regions such as Africa or Latin America.

  • Also anybody who has engaged in medical work, research, field work, etc. in any regions known for similar diseases should not donate blood.

Last are other categories of persons who may not donate blood.

  • Anyone who has or has had heart disease, or malignant tumor,

  • Anyone who has rheumatic fever or is on antibiotics due to risk of rheumatic fever

  • Sufferers from any convulsive disorder

  • Sufferers from blood-loss related diseases such as hemophilia or purpora.

  • Asthmatics

  • Stroke victims

  • Anyone with medicine allergies, nephritic syndrome, chronic inflammation disorders.

  • Anyone currently experiencing extreme hunger or sleep deprivation.

  • Anyone currently taking prescription drugs, except for those such at vitamins with no harmful side effects.

  • Pregnant women or breast-feeding mothers.

  • Anybody with a fever, specifically temperature of 37℃ or higher

  • HIV, hepatitis infected persons (free AIDS testing centers link)

  • Anyone who has ingested marijuana or other psychoactives within the last year

  • Any man who has engaged in homosexual behavior

  • Anyone with a history of sex with anonymous partners

  • Anyone who has been treated for hepatitis A within the past 6 months. Also, since it is often transmitted by shellfish, anybody whose family member has been treated for hepatitis A within the past 1 month. Hepatitis B and C stay in your system, so you are permanently banned.

  • Anybody who has ever RECEIVED a blood transfusion. (Due to the possibility of viruses as yet unknown to medical science.

  • Anybody who has gotten a body piercing (ears included) within the past year.

  • Anybody with a piercing on a mucous membrane such as the lip, tongue, nose, no matter when you got it.

  • Anybody who has gotten a tattoo within the past year.

  • Anyone who has been vaccinated using an inactive vaccine within the past 24 hours for diseases such as influenza, Japanese encephalitis, cholera, hepatitis A, pneumonia, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus (may not be a complete list)

  • Anyone who was given anti-HBs human immunoglobulin in combination with a hepatitis B vaccine, anyone who was given an emergency rabies vaccine (that is, after being bitten) within the past 1 year.

  • Anyone given a vaccination for mumps, rubella/German measles, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (tuberculosis vaccine), or other mildly active vaccine (live attenuated) vaccine or any hepatitis B vaccine within the past 4 weeks.

  • Anyone vaccinated against smallpox within the past 2 months.

  • Anyone given an antisterum for tetanus, snake bite or other poison, gas gangrene, botulism etc. within the past 3 months.

  • Anyone who has had dental surgery that caused bleeding within the past 3 days.

54 thoughts on “Who can and can not donate blood in Japan

  1. Your leading country for point 5 is Australia, this should instead be Australia.

    In other words, I’d add Australia and New Zealand to your list of countries definitely not affected by BSE.

  2. Prescription drug based on American or Japanese standards? Is birth control considered a prescription in Japan?

  3. Everything in these regulations is based on Japanese law and medical procedures, so ignore anything you know about rules from back home and follow these requirements literally. That said, although birth control pills are only available by prescription I have no idea if they fall under this particular rule. It says “no harmful side effects” and uses things like vitamins as an example. The pill is pretty safe but definitely more dangerous than a vitamin. I’ll post more information if I can find anything.

    Incidentally, I wrote a blog post about the history of the pill in Japan a while back you may find interesting.

    http://www.mutantfrog.com/2009/11/12/pills-for-old-men-or-young-women/

  4. Summarized: With only a very few few exceptions, we only want japanese (maybe korean, chinese too) blood :(. Sorry, i cannot stand this typical japanese racism still latent in this regulations. How many quakes they need to realize it?

    Whatever. I, like other foreigners in Tokyo, cannot do nothing about that :(

  5. This is very informative, thank you! There are a couple of things that have a certain amount of flexibility:

    I’m asthmatic and have donated numerous times in Japan. It’s more to do with what medications you may have ingested in the past 72 hours.

    Also, with regards to breastfeeding mothers, I’m pretty sure that if the child is eating food and well over the age of 6 months, then it can come down to a choice for the mother to make, as her body will most likely choose to replenish her blood, rather than the breast milk.

  6. “we only want japanese (maybe korean, chinese too) blood”

    But Japanese could fall into many of the categories above.

  7. @David, I wouldn’t say that. Most people from North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Asia are not on the list of restricted countries. Some of the regulations might be too exaggerated (really? someone who smoked pot 11 months ago isn’t safe?) but most of them are reasonable precautions that are followed in most countries.

    @Jane: Thank you for the information. I don’t want to speculate or encourage people to do anything differently from what is actually written though, unless you can find some kind of source. The text on the Red Cross site clearly reads “people who have (asthma) attacks occasionally are at risk of one happening during the blood donation, which can cause accidents. Therefore they can not donate.”

    If there is a drastic blood shortage then bending the rules at your own risk might be OK, but I think it should probably be discouraged unless absolutely necessary.

  8. @David my girlfriend and her coworker, both Japanese, spent a year in the uk in 2003… they cannot donate either.

  9. Now calm down David.We all do what we can do in the times like this.You can give the passer-bys some free English lessons,perhaps.

  10. Friend of mine currently in medical school in the US says “in the US, taking birth control is not a contraindication to donating blood. Should be the same for int’l red cross.”

    Japanese rules are stricter though, and the pill is still pretty rare here, so I’m still not quite sure.

  11. The Japan Red Cross website also specified that the pill, although not emergency contraception, was fine, as were medications for indigestion.

  12. 不謹慎ですが this is hilarious.

    Anybody who has ever RECEIVED a blood transfusion. (Due to the possibility of viruses as yet unknown to medical science.
    wtf???

  13. @David (& other moaners)
    You quite obviously have no clue what racism is. Quite typical Japanese safety precautions – yes. Racism – STFU!
    Racism is when you get your head kicked in for having a different skin pigment, not when someone complements you on your chopstick skills or disqualifies you from donating blood for fear of BSE. So, if you don’t like it. You’re free to go home to your country where absolutely everybody is welcome to donate blood & people get beaten up for any reason apart from their race & foreigners can do LOTS about it.

  14. @David
    I wouldn’t say that. Germany has very similar restrictions though it does exclude most continental Europeans state. I guess since they all had the same risk of being exposed, might as well donate. Though they are pretty strict on the UK. Basically if you have been in the UK at any point before 1980 you are excluded (if I remember correctly from my blood giving days). They are just trying to be safe, not racist.

  15. LOL stupid people blame racism for everything.
    The regulations are there to prevent these stupid people from donating.
    Stupidity spreads through blood transfusions, you know.

  16. I take prescription antidepressants… this was never a problem with donating in the States; maybe I should just not tell them I’m taking them? I assume that they screen all donated blood prior to using it anyway, so that if anything “bad” actually showed up they would find it that way.

    Frankly, maybe someone here can use my happy drug-infused blood. :P

  17. Thanks for posting this, and I hope many people will read it and help with the recent tragedy.
    Re: the matter of discrimination- that comment is beyond silly, as the Red Cross is just trying to screen their donors as carefullly as possible. It is similar in other developed nations, go have a look.
    I regularly travel through malarial zones in Southeast Asia and have had a number of vaccines (yellow fever, Hep A & B) yet I am thoroughly screened upon my return and have to wait the required time before I am able to donate again. I have donated whole blood/ plasma/platelets 85 times in my 26 years in Japan.

  18. The restrictions on malaria seem a little odd. A literal reading would seem to indicate that if you lived in a malarial area up to three years ago you are disqualified, but if you only visited more than a year ago it’s OK, even if you actually contracted malaria.

  19. These rules seem pretty reasonable to me. Blood’s pretty important, ‘cause it effects your whole body. It’s good to want it as clean as possible when you’re donating. Incidently, I’m good to donate blood as far as the criteria goes, but the last time I tried I had a fainting spell and then seized. The nurse told me not to try donating blood again for a few decades… Sad day. I did get an ice cream out of the ordeal though.

  20. “…but most of them are reasonable precautions that are followed in most countries.”

    It would be pretty funny if all European countries were to exclude anyone ever living in Europe from ever giving blood… :)

  21. “Medicine allergies”—So… I’m allergic to penicillin. I can’t give blood? I’ve never heard of such a thing, so I just want to clarify.

    Thanks!

  22. Umm, no one commented on the “no gay men allowed, but lesbians are ok” restriction.

  23. Karen,
    85 times! WOW! That’s like clockwork.
    You are awesome!
    頭下がります。

  24. To XLII Say and Chris

    Please do not be so sanctimonious and stop acting like a a typical Nagophile.

    Anyone who has bothered to look at this link , want to help and wants to contribute.

    Telling people to go home it rude and arrogant – All they want to do is help,.

    Yes it is a form of Institutional Racism no matter how aggressive you get.

    Finally I repeat people who have looked and comment want to help. You could be a lot more helpful by saying something like “It is great you want to help” –
    Do not tell people to go home when all they want to do is help !

  25. I am with Alisaur. Where is the “Medicine allergies” line on the Red Cross webpage? I am having problems finding it.

  26. Wait, found it:

    “その他、慢性腎炎、ネフローゼ症候群、アレルギー性疾患等と診断されている方は、服用されている薬剤の影響や献血による疾患への影響が危惧されますので、献血をご遠慮いただいています。”

    I think that instead, it says that if you have allergies AND ARE TAKING MEDICINE for them, you should refrain from giving blood.

    Are we sure about the rest of the translations? I don’t have the time to look at the rest of it just yet.

  27. I’ll comment on it. # Any man who has engaged in homosexual behavior #
    the “GAY DISEASE” 0, Japan not-racism 1
    They didn’t even mention sodomy, which would possibly the related issue, maybe.

    In any case, if you really want to give blood, but maybe kissed a guy or smoked some dope, do what most people do when they go to the doctor and LIE!
    Imagine that?

  28. The reason they ban men who have had sex with men from donating is that gay men (in first world countries, at least) have a significantly higher risk of contracting HIV. This is for two reasons:

    1. Anal sex has a far higher probability of transmitting HIV than other forms of sex, because of the risk of tearing the anus (more fragile than the vagina and it does not self-lubricate)

    2. Gay men are on average more promiscuous than other people

    When you add the higher risk of HIV to the fact that it is a small percentage of people who fit into this category (probably under 5%), I think it makes sense.

    Although if you only kissed a guy, or even just got a blowjob from a guy, it’s obviously not the end of the world if you did lie and say you never had sex with men in order to be allowed to donate blood.

  29. Tsuyoshi, you need to check your facts and get educated. Your ignorance is showing through pretty horribly.

    1. If this weren’t an instance of pointless homophobia, and it were going by what you claim, then the people banned would be those who participated in anal sex, including heterosexual couples. However, the ban doesn’t even mention anal sex—it just says ANY kind of “homosexual behavior” between men. Men who have never engaged in anal sex can still be banned under the current policy, and many heterosexual couples who have anal sex can happily give blood, so your point is way off the mark.

    2. “Gay men are on average more promiscuous than other people”? Wow. Nice stereotyping and homophobia at work. This is exactly the kind of misguided and offensive attitude the ban encourages, but that doesn’t make it true. I would love to see you actually try to back up your stereotyping with facts, but I know you can’t because it’s simply not true.

  30. Chuckers, thanks for pulling up the original. I think you’re right, and that makes a lot more sense!

  31. Here’s what I don’t understand:

    Don’t they test all the blood anyway?

    Excluding all these categories of people can’t be foolproof by itself, and if a person’s blood is tested anyway, what does it matter if they fall into one of these categories?

    (except for the ones that are for the donor’s own good like you are currently experiencing extreme hunger)

  32. Blood is only tested against common diseases. Testing for every blood-born rare disease would be far too expensive. Also, there are diseases that haven’t been identified yet, which is why they ban certain kinds of people with an especially dangerous history – most of all anyone who has received a blood transfusion in the past.

  33. A number of posters appear to think that blood donation restrictions are somehow akin to violations of civil rights instead of a method of assuring as clean as possible suppply of blood.

    Blood donation risk analysis works on facts and certain population groups are more likely to carry certain diseases. Japan along with a number of other developed countries can afford to be more rigorous and can screen more finely for risk factors as they can get sufficient supplies from the population without those rist factors.

    Every Red Cross organisation tries to create blood donation guidelines that will work with the population base of that country. i.e. weighing risk against benefit. For example – many developed countires do not allow residents and former residents of the UK to donate blood because of a higher risk of CJD. Does this mean you can’t donate blood in the UK? – of course not. In countries where certain diseases are endemic – they still accept blood donations there, however, there is always the chance that a disease endemic in that country may be transmitted by a transfusion. If you are in a situation where supplies are sufficient without accepting donations from higher risk donors – then it makes sense.

  34. First, thank you. Second, one rule that wasn’t on the list but I was just turned away for: foreigners MUST have been in Japan for AT LEAST 30 DAYS before donating. (Not sure how that jives with other countries’ restrictions—seems kind of arbitrary given all the other precautions about where you’ve traveled.:

  35. For anyone throwing the “racism” charge around, I’ll have you know that I’m a fully white, young American man (no East Asian DNA in me) and I would qualify to give blood in Japan, if I had been in Japan for at least 4 weeks. Seeing as how I’m currently residing in America, I cannot. I’m not disqualified on any other grounds though.

    All of those requirements are perfectly reasonable and justifiable, and as CityDweller pointed out, closely match the American Red Cross requirements too. People need to stop inventing controversy where none exists.

  36. @CityDweller, good explanation, thanks. The important thing is that even if some of the rules may be based on out of date science or are more conservative than other countries, they are all at least intended to keep people safe, not to discriminate. Real racism would be if they refused to GIVE you blood, but every single person who is disqualified from donating blood would still be given a transfusion.

    @B: That rules is on the list, but it is phrased differently, and has nothing to do with being foreign. As I said at the top:

    Please also note first of all that ANYBODY who has entered Japan in the last four weeks may NOT give blood.

    It says 4 weeks instead of 30 days, but that is basically the same.

  37. I used to work in a blood bank in the U.S. and was trained to screen donors. The reasoning behind not allowing people who are on meds is not because of the drug itself, but because of the medical condition for which you are taking the meds. It’s for the donors benefit, and not related to the safety of the blood. You can’t donate if you have a cold and are taking cold medicines only because they don’t want to make you feel worse by donating blood. (I’ve seen a 200 pound man fall off his chair after becoming lightheaded from donating.)

    Blood is normally not even screened for the presence of prescription drugs, let alone marijuana.

    Interestingly enough, something that is included in American standards but not Japanese ones as something that would prevent donation is acupuncture. Does that mean Americans are racist against Asians?

  38. In case there are any other short people out there, I found the weight guidelines here:
    http://www.jrc.or.jp/donation/terms/index.html
    (can’t understand the other charts on the page though, sorry!)

    40kg ~ 45kg = 300mL (women only)
    45kg ~ 50kg = 300mL ~ 350mL
    50kg ~ 55kg = 400mL
    55kg ~ 60kg = 400mL ~ 450mL
    60kg ~ 65kg = 400mL ~ 500mL
    65kg ~ 70kg = 400mL ~ 550mL
    70kg+ = 400mL ~ 600mL

    Aside from the “must have been in Japan for 4 weeks”, I could give blood too – and I can’t in America!

  39. I used to live in the UK, ok great I dont have to bother giving blood to the Japanese in their greatest time of need, ok good luck with that.

    I m outta here, obviously cant help, am not wanted and one less second class gaijin to be looked after.

    Any Non Japanese who has bought into the “giri” or “gaman” of staying here to show group solidarity for the greater glory of the Japanese empire/company either has a J-family, or is cannon fodder.

  40. Thankyou for posting this! I am a black girl born and raised American and I more than qualify to donate blood in Japan. Hopefully things in Japan can make a quick recovery with folks like yourself posting things like this to help! Please keep up the good work!

  41. while the list does seem a bit restrictive at first glance, I want to remind people why its so important to be careful when giving blood. my husband’s childhood friend suffers from hemophilia and has needed blood transfusions on and off throughout his life. one of these blood transfusions gave him hepatitus C (I think – he has the bad one that kills his liver), so now on top of living with this horrible disease that he’s battled since childhood, he’s got to learn to live with hepatitus too. that transfusion that was supposed to help him feel better ended up pushing him one step closer to the grave…:(

  42. I don’t know how many people commenting here have actually tried to donate blood in Japan, but I have and can relate my actual experience.

    As a background I am from Canada and have donated over 100 times there before moving to Japan (whole blood, plasma and platelettes).

    In Japan the first thing I did was to look up the Red Cross in order to get into my ususal donation routine. I was told that unless I could speak and read Japanese fluently (i.e. read all of the above rules, in Japanese, and anwer the nurse’s questions), I would not be allowed to donate. This was both at the Red Cross donation location in Shinjuku station as well as on the phone to the main office. I do speak well enough to understand that I was not allowed because of my reading ability.

    So you can add to the list the number 1 requirement, you must be fluent enough to read all of the rules in Japanese otherwise you are ineligible.

  43. I gave blood yesterday. Not in Japan. But anyway I thought it was cool to give blood and I also think it’s important. Saving lives is important.

  44. I gave blood in Japan earlier today. It was the 8th time for me since coming here, and like DMT said above – the staff are pretty insistent that you understand the questions. The first time I did it I asked the staff for a copy of the questions so I could look them over myself and understand them (as my Japanese reading ability wasn’t that great at the time.)

    I’ve had no problems donating blood in Japan since then.

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