• Iron is an essential mineral found in the human body, in many foods that we eat, and in iron or multi-vitamin supplements.
  • One of its most important roles is to make haemoglobin, the protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • About two-thirds of iron in our bodies is found in haemoglobin.
  • Iron has other roles, such as maintaining our energy, healthy brain development and functioning of the immune system.
  • When you donate blood, you also give away some of your iron.
  • Iron is found in certain foods and is absorbed in your gut to replace this loss. Iron-rich foods include red meat, chicken, fish, liver, beans, nuts, spinach, lentils, apricots and raisins.
  • You can also take iron tablets to speed up replacement if you are a regular blood donor.
  • Women are more likely to have low iron levels due to the fact that they lose blood regularly through menstruation.
  • Frequent blood donation places you at risk of lowering your iron levels.
  • People with low iron levels can feel tired, irritable, have difficulty concentrating and exercising, or experience cravings to chew ice or chalk.
  • Low iron levels can eventually lead to low haemoglobin levels, which is called anaemia. This may cause you to feel breathless or dizzy as you have to work harder to get the oxygen to different parts of your body.
  • Haemoglobin contains iron but iron is stored in muscle and other organs too.
  • We perform a finger-prick test before your blood donation to test your haemoglobin level. This is to make sure you have enough red cells to spare for the donation. This test is not a measure of your iron level, although people sometimes mix these words up.
  • We offer iron tablets to all blood donors to replace the iron lost in their donation.
  • It is a good idea for regular blood donors, particularly women aged between 16-50 years, to take iron tablets. Females are more likely to become iron deficient because they repeatedly lose blood through menstruation.
  • You should not use iron tablets if you are allergic to iron or any of the other ingredients in the tablets, or if you have an iron-overload condition like hereditary haemochromatosis.
  • We give you thirty iron tablets to take on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until the supply is finished.
  • Each tablet contains 170mg of ferrous sulphate (this is a type of iron that is easily absorbed from the gut).
  • Iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach, so can be taken before going to sleep.
  • Certain foods decrease iron absorption, like tea, coffee, dairy products and high fibre cereals, so should be avoided when you are taking your tablets.
  • Foods rich in Vitamin C (like oranges and strawberries) increase iron absorption.
  • Please remember that the iron tablets supplied by WCBS are to replace the iron lost during a blood donation, not to treat iron deficiency.
  • Some people can have side effects such as constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, nausea or black-coloured stool.
  • These side effects should be reduced by taking the tablets at night.
  • There is more information about iron tablets in the package insert inside the container.
  • Keep iron tablets out of sight and reach of children. If a child takes your iron tablets, call the Poison Centre on 0861 555 777 as this can be lethal.
  • If you are uncertain about whether to use iron tablets, please discuss this with your own doctor.
  • After your doctor has determined the cause, it may be necessary for you to have regular blood donations to drop your iron levels.
  • You will now be regarded as a ‘therapeutic’ donor. This means that you are donating blood to manage a medical condition and can be allowed to donate at more frequent intervals.
  • It is very important for your doctor to complete forms with your medical information and send these back to us. This is for us to understand why your iron levels are raised and to make sure that it is safe for both you and the person receiving your blood. Contact Specialised Donation for further information (021) 507 6320/6393.
  • Ferritin is a protein that binds and stores iron in the body, and releases it when needed. It is mainly found in the liver and immune system.
  • A laboratory blood test can be done to measure your ferritin level, which will reflect the amount of iron you have stored in your body.
  • Normal ferritin stores range from 30 – 150ug/l in women and 30 – 300 ug/l in men.
  • WCBS will routinely be testing the ferritin levels of donors. This will be done the first time you donate and after every fourth donation thereafter to make sure we are not depleting your iron stores.
  • If your ferritin is too high or too low, you will be notified by SMS with the result and advised to seek help from your doctor.

If your ferritin level is normal, you will not be contacted with the result as there is nothing for you to worry about.