If your blood count, also known as hematocrit level, is found to be less than 38%, you will not be allowed to donate.3 This minimum level has been set by the FDA to ensure donors have enough blood to give and that they also have enough iron available in their bodies to make more blood after they donate.
Having enough iron saved up in your body is important for making healthy blood, but it is your accurately measured hematocrit level which determines whether or not you have anemia. Men are considered anemic when their hematocrit is below 39% and women are considered anemic when their hematocrit is below 36%.4
Although some men with anemia (hematocrit of 38%) can donate blood, some women who do not have anemia (hematocrit of 36-37%) are not allowed to donate blood. This is because women need more than twice as much iron as men.5 If a nearly anemic woman (one with a hematocrit of 36-37%) was allowed to donate, her body might not have enough iron saved up to keep her from becoming anemic. For women, saving extra iron to correct anemia can be very difficult. If your blood count indicates you have anemia, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor.
Anemia & Blood Donation
For deferred blood donors and the health professionals who educate them about low blood counts and anemia. Read on to learn about the possible causes of a low blood count, potential treatments and the importance of communicating a low blood count to your doctor.
Donating blood is a great way to help your community, but you can be turned down, or "deferred," from donating for several reasons. About 10% of people who attempt to donate are deferred because of a low blood count.1 This is actually one of the most common reasons for being deferred from donating blood.2
If you were not allowed to donate because you had a low blood count, there are usually some simple measures you can take to raise your blood counts back to a healthy level. It is important to find out what is causing your low blood count, discuss your low blood count with your doctor, and together determine an effective treatment so you can donate blood again soon.
It is important to know what has caused you to have a low blood count. There are several possible reasons and they generally include iron and vitamin deficiencies, chronic illnesses and other invisible causes, which are each described in the next three sections in Causes for Deferral.
A low blood count can also be called anemia, and how you'll need to treat it depends on what is causing it. The following three sections in Causes for Deferral discuss many common treatments your doctor may recommend if you have anemia from an iron or vitamin deficiency, a chronic illness or another invisible cause. For further guidance and to determine if you need to treat the cause of your low blood count, make an appointment with your doctor.
A low blood count and any anemia symptoms should be taken seriously because they may be the first indications you may have an iron or vitamin deficiency, a chronic illness or another invisible cause. It is important to talk with your doctor about changes in your health - to understand which problems can be treated and to discuss your treatment options. With your help, a doctor may identify a specific condition that is causing your low blood count and help get you back to donating blood again soon.