On Aug. 1, the American Red Cross started accepting individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) as blood donors provided they meet all other provided they meet all other blood donor eligibility criteria, including donation intervals. Those who take testosterone can also donate blood if they meet all other eligibility criteria and do not need to donate whole blood more frequently than every 8 weeks.
What is Hereditary Hemochromatosis?
Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) is a genetic disorder that causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you eat. Excess iron is stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart and pancreas. Too much iron can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as liver disease, heart problems and diabetes.
Treatment for Hereditary Hemochromatosis
People with HH require a procedure to remove some of their blood, known as a phlebotomy , in order to manage this condition. This procedure is like giving blood and is required every 1-16 weeks, depending on the level of iron overload.
Hereditary hemochromatosis is an inherited condition and not an infection, so it cannot be passed through a blood transfusion. This creates a win-win situation for blood donation: those with HH that currently meet all blood donor eligibility criteria can donate the blood they would usually have removed during a phlebotomy, allowing their medically necessary blood removal to help others.
Red Cross Welcomes Individuals with HH as donors
The Red Cross is thrilled to welcome individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis to donate blood. It is important to note that standard donation intervals still apply to HH donors. Those who need to give more frequently than the standard donation interval of 56 days will be referred to the Red Cross therapeutic phlebotomy program. These individuals will need a therapeutic phlebotomy procedure, per a physician’s prescription, in select Red Cross locations.
Individuals who have been previously deferred from giving based on previous guidelines are encouraged to contact the Red Cross Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276 to have their donor record updated.