How Much Iron To Donate Blood

In Canada, how much iron you need to donate blood actually depends on your hemoglobin levels. The Canadian blood services screens for hemoglobin, and it has separate requirements for female and male donors. The hemoglobin levels required are:

  • Minimum of 125 g/l  for female donors
  • Minimum of 130 g/l for male donors

How can you make sure you have enough hemoglobin? Read on to find out.

Iron In Blood

Iron plays a crucial role in your body. It is an essential mineral that you need to make hemoglobin and red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein that transports oxygen throughout your body. Without enough iron in your blood, you won’t have enough hemoglobin. As a result, you may iron deficiency which if left untreated can progress to iron deficiency anemia. You also won’t be able to donate blood if your hemoglobin levels don’t meet the required threshold.

Blood Iron Levels

There are a few ways to measure the iron in your blood. Your healthcare practitioner may use any of the following:

  • Serum iron
  • Serum ferritin
  • Transferrin levels

If you think your iron levels may be low, speak to your healthcare practitioner or family doctor. Iron deficiency can affect your quality of life as the symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, and breathlessness.

What Should Your Iron Level Be

According to the Medical Council of Canada, the typical iron levels are:

  • 9–30 µmol/L for females
  • 12–31 µmol/L for males

After testing your iron levels, if the results show that they are low, your doctor may recommend eating more iron-rich foods. In the case that an iron-rich diet does not increase your iron levels, your doctor may recommend iron supplementation.

Can You Give Blood If You Have Low Iron

According to Canadian Blood Services, repeat blood donors are often iron deficient. If you have low iron you may still be able to give blood but it depends on your hemoglobin levels. In some instances, you can have low iron but your hemoglobin levels can be normal.

As hemoglobin levels are tested before donation, you may be able to give blood if you have low iron as long as your hemoglobin levels meet the minimum requirements.

Iron Supplements

After testing your hemoglobin levels at a blood donation facility, if you find that you don’t meet the minimum requirements, then you should speak to your doctor. Ask to check your iron levels as it is more likely that you may be iron deficient.

There are steps you can take to reduce your iron deficiency. Foods rich in iron and iron supplements can both help. If you are looking for iron supplements, you may be concerned about side effects such as cramping, abdominal discomfort, and nausea.

It’s important to know that there are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from animal sources and non-heme iron comes from plant sources. Your body absorbs heme iron at a better rate than non-heme iron, leading to less side effects.

If you want to donate blood and are concerned about your iron or hemoglobin levels, talk to your family doctor or healthcare practitioner. You may only need to add foods with iron or an iron supplement to raise your iron levels to be able to donate blood.

References:

NIH Clinical Center: Iron and Blood Donation

Canadian Blood Services: Iron

Canadian Blood Services: The importance of iron for whole blood donors: a Canadian perspective

Medical Council of Canada: Clinical laboratory tests – Adult normal values

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