Blood donation and iron
As a blood donor in Stockholm, you generally receive iron tablets after donating blood. Here we explain why it´s important to replenish iron levels after donating blood.
What is iron?
Iron is a mineral that is essential for many functions in the body. The main role is to serve as building material for hemoglobin.
What is hemoglobin?
Hemoglobin (Hb) is an iron-rich protein found in the red blood cells. Hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.
Normal levels for Hb are:
- 117-153 g/L for women
- 134-170 g/L for men
You can donate blood if your Hb is at least:
- 125 g/L for women
- 135 g/L for men
When you donate blood, your hemoglobin level temporarily decreases by 10-15 g/L. The hemoglobin value is checked at each blood donation. The lifespan of red blood cells is about four months, after which iron is reused when new red blood cells are formed.
What is ferritin?
Ferritin is a protein found mainly in the liver, spleen and bone marrow. It´s main role is to store iron so that it can be used when needed. Ferritin levels indicate the amount if iron stored in the body, i.e., your iron reserves. In Stockholm, ferritin is regularly monitored in all blood donors.
Normal levels for ferritin are:
- 13-150 µg/L for women
- 30-400 µg/L for men
To be approved as a blood donor in Stockholm, ferritin levels should be at least:
- 20 µg/L for women
- 30 µg/L for men
Why do you need to take iron tablets after giving blood?
To ensure your well-being after blood donation, it´s important to replenish your iron reserves. During a blood donation, you loose approximately 225 mg of iron. It´s challenging to replace lost iron through food alone since the body absorbs only about 10 % of the iron provided. Therefore, we recommend taking 20 iron tablets after blood donation.
If your iron reserves decrease, you may feel tired and have difficulty concentrating. Ferritin can drop to low levels before it´s reflected in the hemoglobin value. Low hemoglobin can lead to impaired oxygen uptake, resulting in reduced energy and shortness of breath during physical activity.
Always take the iron tablets you receive after donating blood. They will help you feel well.
Store your iron tablets in a safe place
Keep in mind that iron in excessive amounts can be toxic. Therefore, store the iron tablets in a way that prevents small children and pets from accidentally ingesting them.
Reviewed by Fredrik Boström, Medical Director, Blodcentralen Stockholm