Haemoglobin Level
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Haemoglobin Level

Each time a person attends a blood collection centre, the haemoglobin level is checked. This is done by taking a tiny drop of blood from the person’s fingertip than placed in a special machine which measures the Haemoglobin level.  

Haemoglobin (Hgb) is a protein found in red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body and give blood that red colour. Cells and tissues need constant supply of oxygen to work properly. Haemoglobin levels vary from person to person and usually men have higher levels than women.
  
Blood banks set fairly high ‘cut-off’ levels to ensure that the donors’ haemoglobin levels will not drop below normal after donating blood. To guarantee the donors’ safety, in Malta, the Hgb level needs to be at least 12.5 g/l for women and 13.5 g/l for men prior to donation (this is actually EU Directive).
 
Why Hgb might be too low?
 
There are times when Haemoglobin levels might be too low to donate blood. Common reasons could be:-
Some people normally have lower levels of Hb e.g. because of low iron stores, (iron is needed to make Hb) thus Hb may fall below normal. Some categories of donors are known to have lower iron stores, e.g. females of childbearing age, regular donors.

While doing the test, the drop taken might be insufficient for a correct reading.

When the Hb level is found to be low on finger-prick testing, the test is repeated. . If the results vary but are still too low for blood donation, the medical doctor will suggest taking a Complete Blood Count (CBC) to determine the exact level of Hb. This is because CBC is performed on blood taken from a vein, which is more accurate than testing a drop of capillary blood (as done with the pinprick test). The CBC also measures the total amount of red blood cells (RBC), total amount white blood cells (WBC), the total amount of Hb, the fraction of the blood composed of RBC (haematocrit/Hct) as well as platelet count.

Boosting iron levels
 
A well-balanced diet helps in maintaining a good iron level in the blood.
 
Vitamin C helps in absorbing most of the iron present in food so having vitamin C rich foods with meals also helps. 
 
For having a guide on how and why having a good iron stores is important to blood donors, the department have issued a leaflet named:- 'Iron and You'.  Click here to view