Hemoglobin and Blood Donations: Why it Matters

Editor’s Note: This article is for informational purposes only. You should not use it to replace any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any health issues. Any questions about your blood health should be directed toward a physician, hematologist, or other licensed healthcare professional.

Low hemoglobin levels could cause you to be turned away at the blood center. Here’s what you need to know before you head to your appointment.

It’s the day of your blood donation appointment and you’ve got everything set. You ate a healthy dinner the night before, drank plenty of water, got a great night’s sleep, and had an iron-rich breakfast before heading to the blood center. 

You get there and…you’re told you’re not allowed to donate that day.

There are a few reasons why this might happen, but one of the biggest could be that your hemoglobin levels were low that day. Every blood center checks your hemoglobin levels before you can donate, and may turn away certain people if they test too low. 

In this piece, we’ll go over why you might be turned away from a blood bank due to low hemoglobin levels, what you can do to get them back to normal, and how you can know what your levels are before heading to your next appointment. 

Why Blood Centers Check Your Hemoglobin 

To start, let’s have a quick refresher on why hemoglobin is so important to your overall health. Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells that helps carry oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues to ensure they can function properly.

Hemoglobin illustration

This is hemoglobin, a protein responsible for transporting oxygen via your blood cells, and is what gives blood its red color. It’s important to keep your levels in check to ensure your body has the resources it needs to function.

If your hemoglobin is too low it can result in anemia, which can cause fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, pale skin, and many other symptoms. 

Since hemoglobin is found in the blood, there’s going to be a decrease in your levels when you donate. That’s why you might feel a bit woozy when you try to get out of the chair once your donation is complete. 

Your body almost immediately starts to form new red blood cells, which replenishes our hemoglobin levels. But if you didn’t have enough red blood cells to begin with, your body might struggle to produce enough healthy new ones. 

Imagine for a second that your body is a smartphone, and hemoglobin is the electricity that charges it. If you wait for your phone to get to zero percent it’s going to take a while before it’s fully charged, but if you plug it in at 40% it might only take a few minutes to get back to 100%. 

Similarly, if you donate blood with low hemoglobin levels it’s going to take you a while to get back to normal, and during that time you might experience anemia-like symptoms. Starting off with a healthy hemoglobin range can ensure your body will be able to make enough new red blood cells without any disruptions. 

I Got Turned Away from a Blood Bank for Low Hemoglobin – Now What?

You can still donate in the future, but you’ll need to get your hemoglobin levels back up first. If you come back at a later date with a healthy hemoglobin count you may be able to proceed with your donation. 

To figure out a course of action, schedule a doctor’s appointment to see why your hemoglobin levels were low to begin with. It might be due to low iron levels (your body needs dietary iron, along with other vitamins and minerals, to create new red blood cells), in which case you may have to change up your diet. Want to learn how? Read our guide on what foods you should eat if you’re anemic

There are some who may have low hemoglobin due to a genetic condition, in which case you should talk to your doctor about any possible treatments to ensure your levels stay in the normal range. 

It’s important to note that low hemoglobin levels aren’t necessarily a sign that you’re anemic or have anemia. Only a doctor can make that diagnosis, which is why it’s vital you talk to them if you have any concerns. 

What Blood Donors’ Hemoglobin Levels Should be 

The American Red Cross says men’s hemoglobin levels should be no lower than 13.0 g/dL, and no higher than 17.5 g/dL. Women should be no lower than 12.5 g/dL, and no higher than 15.5 g/dL.
hemoglobin Hemoglobin and Blood Donations: Why it Matters

How Can You Track Your Hemoglobin Levels? 

You can discuss your blood work with a doctor and regularly monitor your hemoglobin levels by using AnemoCheck Mobile — our FREE app that instantly measures your levels in a snap, with just a fingernail selfie. Download AnemoCheck Mobile today.

Join the Conversation

Read More