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Donors Deferred for Low Hemoglobin

If you’re not eligible to give blood because of low hemoglobin, or if you were deferred due to low hemoglobin levels, there may be steps you should take before you try to donate again.

It is important for blood donors to understand how hemoglobin may be affected by the level of iron in your blood. Read below to learn more detailed information.

Low Hemoglobin / Hematocrit

The hemoglobin test measures the amount of a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is found in your red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues throughout your body. The American Red Cross staff routinely checks your hemoglobin before each donation. To safely donate,  it must be above the minimum value required for blood donation, which is 12.5 g/dL. Effective May 2016, male donors will be required to have a minimum hemoglobin level of 13.0 g/dL.

What are normal hemoglobin levels in healthy adults?

Hemoglobin values in healthy people usually fall within the following ranges:

Men: 13.5–17.5 g/dL

Women: 12.0–15.5 g/dL

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

My hemoglobin was in the normal range but too low for donation.  What does that mean?

We encourage you to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of food high in vitamin C and rich in iron. Although you were not eligible to donate today, you may be able to donate in the future.

If your hemoglobin has been in the normal range but too low for donation on several occasions, we suggest that you discuss your results with your health-care provider.

If you are a frequent blood donor, the Red Cross recommends that you discuss with your health-care provider taking a multivitamin with iron or an iron-only supplement to replace the iron lost through blood and platelet donations.

My hemoglobin was below the normal range. What does that mean?

We suggest that you talk to your health-care provider about your test results. 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 because iron is needed to make hemoglobin. Blood donation removes iron from the body and may cause or contribute to low iron levels and possibly anemia. If your low hemoglobin is due to low iron, you can replenish it by increasing your intake of iron-rich foods and by taking iron-only supplements or multivitamins containing iron.

If you are a frequent blood donor, the Red Cross recommends that you discuss with your health-care provider taking a multivitamin with iron or an iron-only supplement to replace the iron lost through blood and platelet donations.