New Hemoglobin Criteria for Male donors
Blood donation is a safe, minimal risk activity that provides patients with life-saving transfusions. Healthy adult donors who fulfil the minimum pre-donation haemoglobin criterion and the pre-donation health screening should be able to give blood safely and regularly.
It is important that regular blood donors have enough stores of iron in their body to help them in the regeneration of the red blood cells lost during blood donation. There has been growing concern among blood services round the world that regular repeat male blood donors are at risk of depleting their bodily iron stores and may develop anaemia (low Hb level) eventually. This was confirmed by our local study which showed a higher incidence of low iron levels in male donors with Hb level between 12.5 and12.9 g/dl compared to donors with a Hb level of 13 g/dl and above.
Hence, the Health Sciences Authority Blood Services Group will be raising the minimum Hb criteria for male donors from 12.5 g/dL to 13 g/dL from 1st Jan 2018, as a precautionary safety measure to reduce the risk of male blood donors developing low iron stores and possibly iron deficiency anaemia.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is iron depletion & iron-deficiency anaemia?
Iron depletion happens when the body’s iron stores are consumed to meet bodily needs faster than they are being replenished. It does not cause any significant symptoms or adverse effects until the body’s iron stores are exhausted and cannot meet production of new red cells and chemicals necessary for good health. When this occurs, it would result in a drop in haemoglobin level below normal levels known as anaemia.
Mild anaemia (haemoglobin level above 11 g/dL) does not cause any symptoms. However more severe anaemia (haemoglobin dropping to 10 g/dL or lower) may cause headaches, dizzy spells, tiredness, breathlessness, palpitations or even angina (chest pains).
2. How can blood donors boost their haemoglobin level and prevent iron-deficiency anaemia?
Blood donors can boost their haemoglobin level and prevent iron-deficiency anaemia by increasing their oral intake of iron.
The most effective way would be to consume the full course of iron supplements issued by the blood bank after each donation visit. We recommend taking one tablet of iron supplement on alternate days for optimal results.
Eating a regular well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich food also helps. One can improve the iron absorption from the diet sources by consuming meals with foods and beverages rich in Vitamin C. Avoid taking tea and coffee together with your meals as this will reduce the absorption of iron.
3. Can the affected donor fully recover from iron-deficiency anaemia?
Iron depletion and iron deficiency anaemia can be readily reversed by adequate iron intake.
4. Does this mean that blood donation poses potential health risk to donors?
Blood donation is a safe, minimal risk activity that provides patients with life-saving transfusions.
Safeguarding the health and safety of our blood donors is paramount. Therefore, donors have to undergo a pre-donation screen, including a pre-donation haemoglobin test, to make sure that they are healthy and suitable for donation. Healthy adult donors who fulfil the minimum pre-donation haemoglobin criterion and other donation criteria should be able to give blood safely and regularly.