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A blood donor may have greater need for iron

Duration blood donation, iron tablets are given to donors known to be at the highest risk of iron deficiency. The tablets are intended to prevent possible iron deficiency caused by blood donations. On this page, you will find information about blood donors’ need for iron and the use of iron supplements.

​Iron lost during blood donation is replaced in around five months, by the iron included in a varied diet. If blood is frequently donated, the body cannot replace lost iron from the iron contained in food. This phenomenon has been observed in the case of women of childbearing age in particular. Measures are taken to counter the risk of iron deficiency caused by blood donations, by leaving gaps between donations and providing donors in risk groups with iron supplements.

Women should leave at least 91 days between donations and men at least 61 days. However, we recommend that women at risk of iron deficiency, in particular, donate blood one to two times a year and men two to three times a year. 

The Blood Service is conducting a broad-based study of the iron reserves of blood donors who donate blood regularly.

What is haemoglobin (Hb)?
Haemoglobin is a constituent of red blood cells, helping to transport oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. The ability of haemoglobin to carry oxygen is based on the iron present in the haemoglobin molecule. The haemoglobin level in human blood is very individual.

What is iron needed for?
Iron is a basic component of body tissues. In addition to the haemoglobin of red cells, iron has important functions in muscles and in enzymes which regulate bodily processes. Iron is stored in the bone marrow and liver. There are great individual differences in the size of iron stores, and men have about threefold larger iron stores than women.

What are the consequences of iron deficiency?
A mild degree of iron deficiency which is not reflected in blood haemoglobin level can still cause symptoms (ex. tiredness and reduced performance). Iron deficiency also predisposes the body to infection and inflammation.

How to get enough iron?
A healthy person gets enough iron from a varied, balanced diet. Foods containing liver, meat, blood, lentils, soybeans, edible seaweed, rye and oat bran are rich in iron. Iron absorption can be improved by eating vitamin C-containing food products (e.g. citrus fruits or fruit juices).

Blood donors may need more iron
The iron lost when donating blood is replaced by iron from the diet within about five months. However, frequent blood donation may leave too little time for the iron loss to be made up for by iron intake from food. This is particularly true for women in fertile age. The Blood Service provides iron supplementation for donors in high risk of developing iron deficiency. The iron supplementation is aimed at preventing iron deficiency and any ensuing fall in blood haemoglobin level caused by blood donation.

Can you get too much iron?
The iron supplementation offered by the Blood Service is safe for healthy donors. Of importance is however, that iron affects the absorption of many medicinal products. Donors should take into account to keep a 2 hours time interval between taking any medicines and the iron capsules.  Iron supplementation may cause gastrointestinal symptoms.

How to use the iron capsules given to you after blood donation?
Take one capsule of the Vida Rauta supplement per day – the capsule can be taken with food at any time of the day. Vitamin C increases iron absorption, whereas dairy products weaken it; Vida Rauta contains vitamin C. Continue your three-week course through to the end, even if you forget to take an iron supplement on a certain day.