Iron Information

Important Information about Iron Stores

Donors who give whole blood or an automated donation with red blood cells at least twice a year should consider taking a multivitamin with iron or an iron supplement.

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Why?
Your body needs iron to make new red blood cells to replace those you lose from donating. Donating red blood cells regularly (at least twice a year) can reduce the iron stores in your body. The health impact of this iron loss can vary among donors.

Does The Blood Center measure my iron levels before I donate?
No. The Blood Center measures your hematocrit, which is the percentage of your total blood volume that is composed of red blood cells. (Iron is needed to make new red blood cells.) Your hematocrit level may be high enough for you to donate, but you could still have low iron stores. There is no simple way to measure your iron stores at the time of donation.

What can I do to maintain my iron stores?
The most important thing frequent donors can do to maintain their iron stores is to take a multivitamin with iron or an iron supplement. Your body can only absorb a limited amount of iron at a time; please talk to your pharmacist or physician about the appropriate type and dose of iron for your body.

Eating a diet that includes iron-rich foods can also help your body maintain its iron stores over time. However, simply eating iron-rich foods may not replace all of the iron lost with blood donation for donors who give whole blood or an automated donation with red blood cells at least twice a year.

What dose of iron supplement or multivitamin with iron should I take?

Iron supplements vary in name and proportion of iron within the tablet/caplet. The most effective dose, type of iron supplement, and length of treatment are currently being studied. Our current recommendation is 18-19 mg of iron once a day. Your physician or pharmacist may be able to assist you in deciding what dose, type and duration of iron supplement to choose.

Because people have a limit in iron absorption (i.e., 2 to 4 mg per day), taking iron in larger doses for a shorter period may not lead to better absorption (and may result in more side effects). The overall goal is to replace, over one to three months, 200 to 250 mg of iron lost during donation.

What if I was deferred due to low hematocrit?
Having low hematocrit levels is one of the most common reasons individuals are deferred from donating blood. Female blood donors must have a minimum hematocrit level of 38 percent, and the minimum hematocrit level for male donors is 39 percent. This minimum level is set by the FDA for the safety of the donor. Hematocrit levels below 38 percent for women and 39 percent for men may be normal for you or they may mean you have a condition called anemia.

  • For Men: If you are a male and you were deferred due to low hematocrit level, you should talk to your doctor about your hematocrit level before attempting to donate again.
  • For Women: Low hematocrit levels are normal for some females, particularly those under 50. If you are a woman and you were deferred due to low hematocrit, you should consider taking a multivitamin with iron or an iron supplement. Please talk to your pharmacist or physician about the appropriate type and dose of iron for your body.
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Blood Center Resources

Our mission is to partner with the community to save and sustain lives by providing a safe supply of blood, blood components and related services.

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1400 La Concha Lane
Houston, TX 77054

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