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Iron and Blood Donation

Donating a unit of whole blood or double red cells (2-units) removes iron from your body. You need iron to make new red blood cells.  Low levels of iron can cause anemia or make it worse.

All blood donors should learn more about iron.

  • Everyone should eat a healthy diet.
  • All blood donors should add foods rich in iron to their diet.
  • Frequent blood donors should also take a multivitamin with iron or an iron supplement.
  • Frequent blood donors for whole blood (1 unit/donation) and double red cells (2 units/donation) are:
    • Women 16- to 50-years-old who donate 2 or more units a year
    • Women older than 50 who donate 3 or more units a year
    • Men who donate 3 or more units a year
  • If you have been deferred from donating blood for low hemoglobin, you might have low iron levels.

If you or someone in your family has a diagnosis of hereditary hemochromatosis or have been told that you need to be treated for iron overload, you should follow the advice of your physician. The American Red Cross does not currently accept individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis as volunteer blood donors if they are being treated for the condition.