Your body needs iron to make a protein called hemoglobin. Because hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout your body, if you do not have enough iron, your body makes fewer red blood cells.
Can I donate if I have low hemoglobin/low iron?
Low iron and low hemoglobin are terms sometimes used to describe the medical condition of anemia (a deficiency of red blood cells). Red blood cells (RBCs) are created by your body using both iron and hemoglobin as building blocks. We measure your hemoglobin levels before donation to make sure you have enough RBCs to safely donate blood.
LifeSouth requires a hemoglobin level of 12.5 g/dL for females and 13.0 g/dL for males based on recommendations from the AABB and the FDA.
You can have low iron without having a low hemoglobin, or conversely a low hemoglobin without low iron, however iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of anemia. LifeSouth does not measure iron levels at this time, as it is not currently a requirement for blood donation.
The test performed by LifeSouth are design as screening tools and aren’t meant to be diagnostic, therefore, if you have a diagnosis of low iron, or have been recently treated for iron deficiency, consultation with your physician is recommended prior to donation. If you are chronically anemic, please consult a physician.
What does having low iron mean? Can I do anything to prevent it?
Donating red blood cells can lower your iron, so eating iron rich foods, such as dark leafy greens and red meats, can help replenish iron levels somewhat, but will usually not increase these stores significantly.
Oral supplementation of iron, 18-38mg for 60 days, by multivitamin or specific iron supplement has been shown to replace the amount of iron lost during donation, and is generally recommended. Iron replacement is particularly important in groups at higher risk of iron deficiency.
These groups include:
- Young donors (16-18 years old)
- Frequent whole blood donors
- Males donating three or more times within a 12-month period
- Females donating two or more times within a 12-month period
- Premenopausal females
- Donors with hemoglobin levels near the cutoff range for donation
- Males between 13.0-13.5 g/dL
- Females between 12.5-13.0 g/dL
If you have any pre-existing conditions, are age 65 years or older, or are on other medications, consultation with your physician or pharmacist is strongly recommended prior to starting iron supplementation.