Donors Deferred for Low Hemoglobin

Although you were not able to donate on your recent attempt, you may be able to donate in the future. The Red Cross recommends taking some important steps to help increase your hemoglobin level before returning to donate.

Sometimes, donors may not meet the requirement for donating even though their hemoglobin level falls within normal ranges. The normal ranges are:

  Low Normal Range High Normal Range Acceptable for Donating
Males 13.5g/dL 17.5g/dL 13.0g/dL
Females 12.0g/dL 15.5g/dL 12.5g/dL


The normal ranges for African American men and women have a low normal range that is 0.7g/dL below the range stated above.

My hemoglobin level was below the normal range, what should I do?

If your hemoglobin was below the normal range, or if this is not the first time you’ve been deferred for a low hemoglobin level, the Red Cross recommends you discuss your test results with your health-care provider. Abnormally low hemoglobin, also called anemia, can develop when a person does not make enough red blood cells or loses blood from the body. The most common cause of mild anemia in otherwise healthy people, particularly women, is a low level of iron.

You can help replenish your iron by eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet with foods rich in iron and high in vitamin C.

My hemoglobin was in the normal range, but I was told I couldn’t donate.

It is normal for hemoglobin levels to fluctuate. If you’ve not previously been deferred due to low hemoglobin levels and your level was in the normal range, we encourage you to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet with foods rich in iron and high in vitamin C.

If you donate often, the Red Cross recommends you consider taking a multivitamin with iron or an iron supplement. Multivitamins and supplements are available over-the-counter, but you should discuss with your health-care provider before taking them.

My hemoglobin level was above the normal range, what should I do?

If this is the first time you have been asked not to donate because of a high hemoglobin level, the Red Cross recommends you discuss your hemoglobin levels with your health-care provider.

If my hemoglobin level is low, does that mean I have low iron or anemia?

Prior to donating, the Red Cross checks your hemoglobin level, which is a measure of the protein in your blood that carries oxygen to help nourish tissues throughout your body. Iron is a part of hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin does not measure whether or not the iron stores in your body are healthy. If you have concerns about your hemoglobin level, we recommend you consult with your health-care provider.

How might low iron levels affect me?

It is normal for iron levels to fluctuate, even in those individuals who don’t donate blood and platelets. Many people who have low iron feel fine and have no symptoms. Symptoms may change from mild to more serious and can include: anemia, tiredness and irritability, reduced endurance during physical activity, difficulty concentrating or a craving to chew things such as ice or chalk (pica).

When can I try to donate again?

We welcome you to return to donate again after working to increase your hemoglobin and iron levels. The Red Cross checks your hemoglobin level prior to each blood or platelet donation to make sure your level is healthy enough to donate.

It may take several weeks for high-iron foods, combined with multivitamins with iron or iron supplements, to increase your levels.