Additional Information

Effective May 2016, the Food and Drug Administration is increasing the minimum acceptable hemoglobin level for male blood and platelet donors from 12.5 g/dL to 13.0 g/dL. We’ve compiled some helpful information for you to prepare for this upcoming change. 

If you have any other questions, please call us at 1-800-RED CROSS.

When will the change occur?

The FDA has mandated that all blood banks implement the new minimum hemoglobin level no later than May 23, 2016. The American Red Cross has chosen to implement this change on May 16, 2016.

What is the reason for this change?

The FDA determines blood donation eligibility criteria in the U. S. The increase in the minimum hemoglobin level for male donors is being done to protect a donor’s health.

Donating blood and platelets removes iron from the body, which may affect your health. A single blood donation removes 220-250mg of iron from the body. Repeated platelet donations can also result in a loss of iron. 

What is hemoglobin?

Hemoglobin is a protein found in your red blood cells. It gives your blood its red color and is responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues throughout your body. The Red Cross checks your hemoglobin level before each blood donation to protect your health. 

The normal hemoglobin ranges for healthy men and women are:

Men: 13.5 g/dL to 17.5 g/dL

Women: 12.0 g/dL to 15.5 g/dL

African American men and women may have hemoglobin levels that are slightly lower (by about 0.7 g/dL) than the levels above, but are still considered normal.

Beginning in May 2016, if you are male and your hemoglobin level is below 13.0 g/dL, we will ask you to wait to donate until your level increases. If you are concerned about your hemoglobin level, the Red Cross recommends that you consult with your health-care provider.

What can I do to increase my hemoglobin level?

It is normal for your hemoglobin level to fluctuate. There are some things you can do to boost your level:

Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet containing foods high in vitamin C and rich in iron

Discuss taking a multivitamin with iron or an iron-only supplement with your health-care provider

Donors who donate blood three or more times a year or platelet donors who donate 15 or more times a year are more likely to need an iron supplement. If you are a frequent donor, click here to read additional information about blood donation and hemoglobin levels.

We encourage you to review a list of iron-rich foods and other foods that may impact your hemoglobin level.

Should I take an iron supplement?

Frequent donors are more likely to benefit by taking a multivitamin with iron or iron-only supplement. If you donate with the following frequencies you are more likely to benefit from iron supplementation:

Donate whole blood three or more times in a year

Donate whole blood one time and double red cells one time in a year

Donate platelets 15 or more times in a year

Multivitamins containing iron and iron-only supplements are available over the counter in a variety of brands and dosages. The amount of iron you may need will depend on your age, gender, body type, genetics and how often you donate blood.

You should discuss your hemoglobin levels and donation frequency with your health-care provider to determine what is best for you.

Can I have side effects from taking iron?

Iron supplements may cause side effects, which are commonly listed on the product packaging. Side effects may include symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, or an upset stomach. You should discuss any side effects or alternative treatments with your health-care provider.

Iron supplements may be harmful to people with iron overload syndromes such as hereditary hemochromatosis. Iron supplements can mask other health conditions that may be more serious such as gastrointestinal (GI) disease. 

What should I do if I’m asked not to donate due to a low hemoglobin level?

If you were deferred due to low hemoglobin levels, there may be steps you should take before you try to donate again. You should eat a healthy, well-balanced diet containing foods high in vitamin C and rich in iron. Studies also show that taking a multivitamin with iron or an iron-only supplement for 60 days after a blood or platelet donation may help replenish your iron supply.

 If your hemoglobin level was below normal levels, or if you have been deferred on several occasions, we recommend that you discuss with your health-care provider.