Blood donor health and safety are important! That is why a BloodSource professional will carefully assess your health before you donate. This assessment includes a hemoglobin test that we perform on a small blood sample obtained by a finger-stick. Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein, contained in our red blood cells, that carries oxygen throughout our bodies.
It’s important that you understand how the blood donation process affects you, including how it affects your iron and hemoglobin levels. Each blood donation will remove some iron from your body. The impact of this iron loss varies from one donor to the next – sometimes in unpredictable ways. People who donate blood more frequently tend to have more significant iron loss and risk for developing lowered hemoglobin levels than people who donate less often.
You can learn more about the importance of hemoglobin and iron on the Donor Education Sheet you receive when donating. Other helpful information can be found on the Iron Connection card. Donors can track their hemoglobin levels on their personal MyBloodSource Wellness page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein in red blood cells that supports the transport of oxygen throughout our bodies. It is hemoglobin that gives blood its rich, red color. Your hemoglobin measurement tells us whether or not you have enough red blood cells to donate safely and effectively.
We measure your hemoglobin level by testing a small finger-stick blood sample as part of our routine health assessment process.
Currently, BloodSource’s minimum acceptable hemoglobin level for female donors is 12.5 grams per deciliter (g/dL) and 13.0 g/dL for males. Our maximum acceptable level is 19.9 g/dL.
Average hemoglobin levels for men are higher than those for women due largely to the effect of the male hormone testosterone. This is why male and female donors have differing minimum cut-off hemoglobin values.
Your health and ability to donate blood safely are important. This is why we follow the minimum cut-offs for hemoglobin levels to make certain our donors have enough red blood cells for both themselves and the patients they wish to help. It can be discouraging for willing blood donors to be deferred from blood donation. Many who are deferred for low hemoglobin values, unfortunately, do not return to try again. If you have been deferred for low hemoglobin, please keep in mind that this generally is not a permanent condition. We encourage you to access the resources available on the sidebar and, when the time is right, try to donate again.
For many people, the development of iron deficiency will lead directly to low hemoglobin values – what often is called “iron deficiency anemia.” This is not always the case, however. For instance, many iron-deficient individuals will have perfectly normal hemoglobin levels. While we realize this can be confusing, we’re sharing this information to make it clear that we cannot be certain – based only upon results from the hemoglobin screening test – whether or not a particular donor has normal body iron stores.
Iron is a nutrient your body requires to make the hemoglobin contained within your red blood cells. Without adequate iron, it is difficult for your body to make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to where it’s needed. Iron is also needed to support a number of other important bodily functions.
Iron deficiency describes a condition where your body contains lower-than-normal amounts of iron. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia (i.e., low hemoglobin levels) in the United States. It may be caused by:
Yes. Blood donations contribute to iron loss. While for most donors this effect is relatively small, for others the blood donation process can cause iron deficiency. This is why we work hard to educate our donors about this risk, as well as how to reduce it.
Eating a well-balanced diet, complete with iron-rich foods, is a smart way to support your body’s iron needs. For some donors, however, it may be necessary to do more. You may wish to consult your physician to determine additional steps that may be helpful, such as the use of iron supplements.
If you are concerned about your iron status, please talk with your personal physician, who may choose to perform more specific tests to evaluate your iron stores. Your doctor may recommend that you take a multivitamin with iron or another form of iron supplementation.
Men who donate three or more times a year and women who donate two or more are considered frequent donors. We recommend that frequent blood donors consider taking a multivitamin with iron or an iron supplement to replace the iron lost during blood donation. If you choose to take iron supplements, you should discuss options with your doctor or pharmacist. A dose of elemental iron of 18 to 28 mg taken daily for 60 days is sufficient to replace the iron lost during donation. The lower dose available in multivitamins minimizes side effects like upset stomach, constipation or loose stools. Some people with iron overload syndromes like Hereditary Hemochromatosis should not take iron, and iron-containing products should be kept out of the reach of children to prevent accidental poisoning.
Additional information can be found at:
BloodSource Iron Connection
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