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Old 06-21-2004, 12:11 PM
Grasshopper Grasshopper is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Posts: 343
Is there any way I can test my blood's iron level at home?

Hey all, I just got back from a failed attempt to give blood due to low iron. Over the last four years, I've been turned down for a low hematocrit about ten times, and it would save me and the Red Cross a heckuva lot of time if I could test my iron at home before coming in. Is there a way to do this?
Thank you.
Old 06-21-2004, 01:12 PM
Smeghead Smeghead is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Posts: 18,787
Throw yourself at a large magnet and see if you stick.

Seriously, though, I'm not aware of any.
Old 06-21-2004, 01:17 PM
Gravity Gravity is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Montpelier, VT
Posts: 1,203
You should probably be seeing a doctor about your anemia. That's what I had to do.
Old 06-21-2004, 01:20 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: SEC
Posts: 13,793
I don't know, but I pegged a 37 twice in a row in the past few months. Their minimum is a 38, but the let me slide on the first one. The second time, they sent me home.

This is despite getting more than my RDA in iron daily. So, I started taking iron supplements. That raised it up to 41. (And I still can't figure out where all my iron is going. It's not for lack of iron-rich foods.)
Old 06-21-2004, 01:33 PM
Thaumaturge Thaumaturge is offline
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Bay Area
Posts: 766
Some foods, such as grains, sequester iron, and keep it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Old 06-21-2004, 01:42 PM
Nametag Nametag is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: California
Posts: 8,094
Hematocrit measures blood cell volume (as a percentage of blood volume). Iron content will correlate with hematocrit, but increasing dietary iron will not affect your hematocrit unless you address the cause of your low cell count. See a doctor.
Old 06-21-2004, 02:31 PM
KP KP is offline
Join Date: Sep 1999
Posts: 1,789
You can't test blood iron directly with any home test I know of, but you can readily, safely, and trivially test hematocrit. You only need some hematocrit tubes.

The Hematocrit is the percentage of the volume of blood that is made of red blood cells. Since red blood cells are heavier than serum, I suppose any small glass tube might work, even a test tube, if you calibrated it. It would take a lot more blood, though. I suggest getting some capillary tubes from your doctor, if s/he uses them.

This is not medical advice, but I have tested my own hematocrit regularly since medical school, when my hematocrit dropped below the limit for donations (I have a harmless familial anemia, and it's never prevented me from running marathons) I use the same system many blood donation centers use, and the same one I used on a rotation at Boston City Hospital in the early 90s (before the massive renovation and the new building). It's easier and faster than sending my blood to the lab to assuage my idle curiosity.

The capillary tube has such a tiny internal diameter that it wicks up a drop of blood quickly. You stick the end into a sheet of soft wax (instant plug - but any plug or even tape would work). Hand crank -or even electric- centrifuges are available on eBay for under $50 to spin down the blood cells, but I believe that doctors once used to simply stand the tube on end and let The RBCs settle out through gravity. I presume the tubes had some anticoagulant in them

The result will be a column of separated blood in three parts. The bottom 1/3-1/2 will be red. the top will be clear serum, and you may see a thin 'fluffy white' band' made of other blood cells. The ratio between the length of the red column to the total column is you hematocrit. You'll need an accurate measuring tool (e.g. an ordinary hardware store micrometer) and a long total column (several drops of blood) for a truly accurate measurement.

You can also get a used retired "hematocrit reader" on eBay for $20-30, which is little more than a metal plate, engraved with spiral scales to do the math for you. It's completely unnecessary, but hey, they're cheap.

I don't know if there are any FDA restrictions on the sale of such items. I can't imagine there would be, but obviously I don't have that problem. The prices I list may be lower than average. I collect medical memorabilia as a hobby, but I don't like going up against the high bidders for my hobby.


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