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Iron and Blood Donation

If you’ve received a recent notification from the Red Cross about upcoming changes to the minimum hemoglobin levels, click here for more information.

Donating blood removes iron from your body. Your body needs 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 and hemoglobin.

  • Everyone should eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet.
  • All blood donors should add foods rich in iron and high in vitamin C to their diet.
  • The American Red Cross now recommends that frequent blood donors take a multivitamin with iron or an iron-only supplement to replace the iron lost through each blood donation. You should consult with your health-care provider before taking an multivitamin with iron or an iron-only supplement.
  • You are a frequent blood or platelet donor if you meet the following criteria:
    • Women under the age of 50 who donate two or more units of red blood cells or made at least 10 platelet donations in the past year
    • Women 50 or older who donate three or more units of red blood cells or made at least 15 platelet donations in the past year
    • Men who donate three or more units of red blood cells or made at least 15 platelet donations in the past year
    • Note: A whole blood donation is one unit of red blood cells and a double red cell donation is two units of red blood cells. For example, a man who gives two double red cell donations (four units) is considered a frequent donor.
  • If you have been deferred from donating blood for low hemoglobin, you might have low iron levels.

The Red Cross does not currently accept as blood donors those individuals who have hereditary hemochromatosis or who require treatment for iron overload by therapeutic phlebotomy (blood removal).

The Food and Drug Administration is increasing the minimum hemoglobin level required for male donors. Learn more about this important change.


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.