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Iron replacement program for whole blood donors (aged: 16 – 45 years) 

SANBS Iron Replacement Program

  • Iron tablets are offered to donors (aged 16 – 45 years) following donation of a unit of whole blood.
  • You can decide whether you would like to receive the tablets.
  • If you are already on iron tablets you can resume taking your own tablets.

What are the benefits of iron tablets?

  • Iron tablets can speed up recovery of iron lost through blood donation

How should I take my iron tablets?

  • You need to take one tablet (of the ferrous sulphate, 65 mg) every second day
  • The tablet should be taken once a day, preferably before bed-time; this reduces side effects
  • If you cannot take the tablet at night you can take it in the morning
  • If you forget to take the tablet you can take it as soon as you remember

How can I help my body absorb the iron?

  • Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C enhances iron absorption by as much as 20 times
  • Examples include oranges, kiwi fruit, melons and lemons
  • Avoid taking iron tablets with tea, coffee, breakfast cereals and calcium rich foods as these interfere with iron absorption

Where does iron come from?

  • Iron is found in a variety of foods
  • Examples include: meat and meat based foods, eggs, lentils, beans, cereals, and beetroot

How does blood donation affect my iron?

  • A unit of whole blood leads to a loss of 200 – 250 mg of iron
  • Iron recovery occurs mostly through food
  • A diet lacking in iron or poor iron absorption can result in delayed iron recovery

What is iron-deficiency and anaemia?

  • Iron deficiency occurs if the body’s iron stores are used up faster than they are replenished
  • Uncorrected it can lead to anaemia
  • One of the ways to prevent iron deficiency is through adequate iron intake

What is haemoglobin and iron?

  • Haemoglobin (Hb) is a protein found in red blood cells
  • It carries oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body
  • Iron is a vital part of haemoglobin; it helps the body to make haemoglobin

Why is haemoglobin measured before each blood donation?

  • A specific haemoglobin level needs to be in place prior to donation
  • This is because haemoglobin provides some indication of the body’s iron levels
  • In some instances, the body’s iron levels can be low even in the presence of a normal haemoglobin

Can iron supplements cause side-effects?

  • Iron supplements can cause side effects
  • These include bloated tummy, nausea, vomiting, dark stools, diarrhoea, constipation or an upset tummy
  • Lower-dose tablets such as the one used in this programme tend to cause fewer side effects
  • If the symptoms become bothersome, please contact our Medical liaison officers on the following numbers: 031 719 6980/6655 alternatively contact the SANBS customer service call centre toll free on 0800 11 90 31

Can iron supplements be harmful?

  • Iron supplements are not usually harmful to adults when taken as directed, but accidental ingestion of a large dose by children can be harmful
  • You should keep all iron-containing products out of the reach of children
  • In case of accidental ingestion, seek emergency medical assistance from the nearest hospital or poison centre urgently!!