by Dr Caroline Hilton (Head – Medical Department, WCBS)

Iron is a very important nutrient and has a wide variety of vital functions, like the transport of oxygen throughout our body. Low iron stores can make you feel tired and fatigued, or even short of breath. Every time you donate blood you are losing about 200-300mg of iron, so regular blood donation can steadily deplete your iron stores. WCBS offers iron tablets to all donors to replace what is lost in the donation, but we also encourage you to eat a balanced and iron-rich diet – hopefully this cookbook will inspire you!

Every time you donate blood we prick your finger to check your haemoglobin level to make sure that you have enough red cells in your blood to donate. While haemoglobin contains iron, your body also stores iron in other organs so this reading is not a true reflection of your entire stored iron (also called ferritin). WCBS started ferritin testing in early 2022 to help identify donors with low iron stores who should not be donating blood seeing as they will compromise their already low levels. This test is performed in our laboratories from one of the samples taken at the time of your donation. Donors are sent a text message with their ferritin result if their iron stores are very low or very high, so that they can be made aware of this and inform their doctor. For more information about ferritin testing please read more about at here. We know that regular blood donation can deplete iron stores, but there are other medical reasons that can also cause iron loss and should be considered, like chronic bleeding in the gut or heavy menstruation.

While we would like to collect as much blood as possible, ferritin monitoring (in addition to the haemoglobin finger-prick test) helps us to identify when blood donation could be harming a donor. It is our priority to make sure our donor base is as healthy as possible, so that they can safely donate blood and continue saving lives in our province.

For more information about iron, haemoglobin and ferritin, please click here.