Blood Donation, Hematocrit and Iron

What is hematocrit and does it affect my eligibility to donate?

We care about your health, so we check the blood hematocrit level of everyone who comes in. Hematocrit is the percentage of red blood cells in your blood. For men, a normal hematocrit is in the range of 39-54%; for women, 38-54%.


Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. When you make a donation, it removes red blood cells and iron from your body. We always make sure you have enough red blood cells to donate safely. If you are deferred for a low hematocrit, don’t worry—it is usually temporary, and you’ll likely be able to donate again soon. On an average day, about one-in-ten donors is  deferred because of a low hematocrit.


What causes a low hematocrit?

In many cases, a low hematocrit is caused by insufficient iron in the body. If you are in good health but have a low hematocrit, you may need to increase the amount of iron-rich food in your diet. Some suggestions are included in our iron information handout.


What should I do if my count is low?

Making sure you have a normal hematocrit is very important to your good health. In some cases, a person whose blood count is chronically low may have anemia, which means a blood count lower than the normal range.


As a regular or frequent blood donor, what do I need to know about iron?

If you are a regular donor who has never been deferred from donating because of a low hematocrit, we still want you to be informed about the impact of donation on your body’s iron level. You are a local hero, and we want you to stay healthy!


For some people, frequent donation (three or more times a year for men; two or more times a year for women) can sometimes result in iron deficiency. We strongly urge regular and frequent donors to consider extra measures to rebuild your iron stores after every whole blood or red cell donation. Our iron information handout includes suggestions about boosting your iron level, and sources of information about high iron foods.


Boosting your iron level

The best way to boost your iron level is to eat a healthy diet with plenty of iron-rich foods. These include beans, nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, root vegetables, dried fruits, enriched and whole grain breads, lean red meats, shellfish, whole grains, and eggs.


Women need more iron

Low iron levels can be quite common, especially for women, whose bodies naturally require more iron. The recommended daily amount of iron for women is 18 milligrams, and for men is 10 milligrams. Many food labels list iron levels for the food inside the package. Maintain healthy iron levels by eating regular, nutritionally balanced meals, and drink plenty of fluids.


Come Back to Donate

Hospitals and patients in our community depend on a steady supply of lifesaving blood. If you are deferred for low hematocrit, you may return to donate again in 14 days. We look forward to seeing you soon!