Adequate iron levels vital for blood donors’ health and contributions

Published Jul 1, 2024


By Oceans Marasha

In the realm of healthcare, few acts rival the impact and selflessness of donating blood. Every day in South Africa, countless lives are saved and improved because of the generosity of donors. However, amidst this noble act of giving, an often-overlooked element stands out: the importance for donors to maintain adequate iron levels.

Iron is crucial for the production of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. Low iron levels can lead to fatigue, dizziness, and other health issues, impacting not only the quantity and quality of blood donations but also posing risks to donors’ health.

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) recognises the pivotal role of iron in maintaining healthy blood levels, particularly for donors. Dr Pheello Lethola, SANBS Lead Consultant – Donor Services, says, “Iron supplements are essential in replenishing iron stores, ensuring our donors remain healthy and can continue their life-saving contributions.”

During a whole blood donation, donors typically lose about 250mg of iron. While this can be replenished through diet, it may take over 12 weeks for some individuals to fully recover their iron levels. Therefore, supplementing iron through both diet and supplements is crucial for maintaining donor health.

SANBS encourages both regular and potential new donors to prioritise iron supplementation. Alongside supplements, incorporating iron-rich foods like lean meats, beans, spinach, and fortified cereals into daily diets can help replenish iron stores efficiently.

“Ensuring the health and wellness of donors is not just a moral obligation but also a responsibility for SANBS,” highlighted Dr Lethola. Regular donors play a critical role in ensuring a steady supply of blood products for medical emergencies, surgeries, and chronic conditions.

While donating blood is undoubtedly a life-saving act, safeguarding donors’ health through adequate iron levels is equally imperative. SANBS continues to champion this cause, providing essential support and guidance to donors to ensure their well-being and sustained contributions to healthcare in South Africa.