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Haemoglobin Anaemia and Iron

Haemoglobin, Iron and Anaemia

What is haemoglobin?

Haemoglobin is the red pigment of the blood. It contains iron and carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The haemoglobin level varies from person to person and even from day to day. However young donors, pre-menopausal female donors, donors who donate very regularly and donors whose diets have a low iron content are at greater risk of developing iron deficiency as a result of blood donation. Men usually have higher levels than women.

What is iron?

Iron is an essential nutrient. It is a component of haemoglobin, in red blood cells, and of myoglobin, in muscle cells, which are responsible for transporting oxygen around the body and for storage of oxygen in muscles and tissues respectively. Iron is also a component of enzymes that are important for energy metabolism.

What is anaemia?

Anaemia occurs when the haemoglobin level is lower than normal. Although the human body is able to store some iron to replace any that is lost, low iron levels over a long period of time can lead to iron deficiency anaemia and result in individuals experiencing a variety of symptoms, including; lack of energy, shortness of breath, pale skin, headache, irritability, dizziness, palpitations and weight loss.

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Blood Test

Our tests at clinic, including the ‘finger-prick’ test and the sample tested on the Hemocue device, indicated that your haemoglobin might have been lower than required, therefore the full blood count sample we have taken today will be sent for a more detailed analysis in our laboratory.

What happens next?

We will write to you when we have the results of the full blood count sample. Our letter will advise you if you should delay offering to donate again for a period of time and if you need to see your GP for further investigations or advice.

If you do not receive the letter in 2 weeks please call us on Freephone 0800 252266 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday or contact us at

What can I do to boost my iron levels?

Each blood donation contains approximately 240mg of iron and it can take approximately 4-6 months to replace this by eating a diet rich in iron. Iron is found in a variety of foods and you can usually get enough iron through a balanced diet. The richest sources of iron are cereals, vegetables, nuts, eggs, fish and meat. Iron from meat sources are considered easier for the body to absorb, however people following a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet should still get enough iron from their diet.

Vitamin C also helps the body absorb more iron, therefore consuming foods with vitamin c content such as fruits and vegetables, or drinks such as fresh orange juice will also help improve the body’s iron levels. Tea, however, reduces the absorption of iron from foods. This can be prevented by not drinking tea either with or directly after meals.

Do I need to take iron tablets?

Most people should be able to get all the iron they need by eating a varied and balanced diet and should not need to take iron supplements or iron tablets. However, this is personal choice and a multi vitamin supplement with iron can be taken. If the test taken today indicates that the level of iron in your body is low your doctor may prescribe a tablet containing iron.