If you're planning to donate blood next month, now is the time to start eating iron-rich meals.
The American Red Cross Bloodmobile will be hosting a blood drive Feb. 23-25 at the Brainerd Armory. While coordinator Dee Severson is hoping more new donors will turn out to give blood, she's also worried that prospective donors will have to be turned away because of low iron levels in their blood.
At the bloodmobile's September blood drive, 93 Brainerd area donors weren't allowed to donate because their hemoglobin counts were too low. So Severson is asking that prospective donors start boosting the iron in their blood by taking care of themselves and eating properly.
The American Red Cross needs all the blood they can get. Because of the hard-hitting cold and flu season this winter, the blood supply is so precariously low that Minnesota only has a one-day supply on hand, said Severson. An emergency or natural disaster would cripple the blood supply program. The Red Cross bloodmobile drives have been falling on average 5-12 percent under their goals because of the flu and cold season as well as winter weather driving problems.
Red meat, fish, poultry, nuts or raisins are the best sources of iron in food. Iron rich foods also include lentils, iron-fortified cereals, kidney beans, baked potatoes with the skin, pasta and breads made with iron-enriched flour and white rice.
When you eat plant foods along with those iron-rich foods, the iron in the plant foods are better absorbed, as well. Foods that are high in vitamin C also help your body to absorb iron, such as oranges, broccoli, tomatoes, kiwi, strawberries, peppers, potatoes and cabbage.
Tea, coffee, high-fiber foods, antacids and calcium phosphate interfere with the absorption of iron. The Red Cross requires a slightly higher iron level from their donors. This is so that donors retain a safe blood-iron level that won't put their health at risk.
"It really hurts when we lose 93 people," said Severson. "Start building up your iron now. If you're sick or haven't eaten properly and your hemoglobin is too low, we have to send you home. A lot of people aren't aware of that. They take off work and they waste their time and our time."
The bloodmobile will be accepting donors at the Brainerd Armory from 1-7 p.m. Feb. 23-24 and 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Feb. 25. Call Severson at 829-3485 to make an appointment. Volunteers will be available to babysit your children while you give blood. Severson said bringing your children with you as you donate gives them the opportunity to see how important it is to give blood.
Donating blood usually takes 45 minutes to an hour. Donors must be at least 17 years old but there are no upper age limits. A donor must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health. Donors on most medications are acceptable, depending on why they are taking them. A waiting period of 48 hours is required for those taking antibiotics. Blood pressure medication is acceptable as long as the donor's blood pressure reading is less than 180/100.
Donors are asked to fill out some forms and are asked some medical questions. A nurse then checks the donor's hemoglobin count with a simple prick on the finger, and then takes body temperature and blood pressure readings. The act of donating blood takes 4-15 minutes, depending on the donor. One pint of blood is then drawn, then the donor is treated to cookies and orange juice.
A recent bloodmobile drive in Emily netted 91 units of blood. Of the 105 donors who signed in, 9 of the 10 prospective donors not allowed to donate were turned away because of low iron levels in their blood.
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