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Low Iron and Blood Donations

April 02, 2019

Image of a chalkboard with iron written on it, surrounded by food with high iron levels.

Low iron is one of the most common reasons for a blood donation deferral. Your iron levels fluctuate all day every day and can be affected by how much you have exercised that day, what you’ve eaten in the days prior, and, for women, even where you are during your menstrual cycle.  

If you are tired and fatigued on a daily basis, you may worry about having low iron. Iron carries oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body and is needed to make new red blood cells to replace the ones you lose through day-to-day activities and blood donation.

What if you feel fine and you’re still deferred from donating because of low iron?

Getting deferred means you have to reschedule your donation for a future date. We understand that rescheduling can be frustrating, but your health and safety are a top priority.

Even if you feel okay, your levels might be too low for the large amount of hemoglobin lost during the blood donation process.

Donating blood when your iron is low will cause your levels to drop even further, leaving you feeling tired and faint. It also affects your ability to generate new red blood cells and can cause a longer recovery time.

Every donor gets a wellness check before they donate, which consists of a test for low ironhigh cholesterol screening, blood pressure check, and more. By testing donors’ iron levels, we can determine if you have the right amount of red blood cells for both you and the patients you want to help.

Next steps after a deferral for low iron

The good news is many people can boost their iron by adding some iron-rich foods into their diet the week before.

Try adding meats, grains, beans, dark leafy green vegetables, and dried fruit to your diet.

Also, limit the amount of rigorous physical activity on the day of a donation. Exercising should be part of your healthy lifestyle, so we aren’t saying to stop completely. Just save the heavy lifting and 5k run for a different day.

Getting deferred for low iron shouldn't get you down. Reschedule your donation today

If you are still having trouble donating blood due to low iron after implementing these tips, talk with your doctor about taking an iron supplement. 

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