What does it mean? – Cleveland Clinic

Do you know your blood group? A lot of people don’t, and for the most part that’s OK. In the event of a blood loss emergency, however, it is important that your doctors know what type of blood they can give you – and if they don’t know your blood type, they will turn to type O negative blood, known as the “universal blood group”.

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When your body needs a blood transfusion, the best blood type to receive is your own blood type. But in an emergency, type O negative blood – which only about 7% of individuals have – can be given to people of any blood type.

“All blood donations are important because they can save lives,” says emergency physician Baruch Fertel, MD, “but type O negative blood donations are especially vital.”

It explains what it means to be a universal blood donor and why it is so important to donate blood, especially if you are type O negative.

What are the blood groups?

There are eight common blood types, and the type you have depends on whether or not you have certain antigens or substances that can cause your immune system to react. Your blood group depends on whether or not the A and B antigens (from the ABO blood group) and the Rh(D) antigen (from the Rh blood group) are present.

“They can also react with already formed antibodies,” adds clinical pathologist NurJehan Quraishy, ​​MD. This means that if you were to receive a blood transfusion of a blood type with different antigens than your own blood, your body’s immune system could start to attack, which can be deadly.

“Besides, with the ABO blood group, you have preformed antibodies versus the missing antigen on your red blood cells,” says Dr. Quraishy. “For example, a type A individual has anti-B and should not receive type B blood.”

The four major blood groups indicate whether you have A or B antigens – or both or none.

  • A-Type blood has antigen A.
  • Type B the blood contains the B antigen.
  • Type AB blood contains both A and B antigens.
  • Type Y the blood contains neither A nor B antigens.

So where do these plus and minus signs come from? Blood groups can also be negative or positive, depending on whether you have another antigen, the Rh(D) antigen. This is known as being Rh-positive or Rh-negative, although it is usually simply referred to as having a positive or negative blood type.

  • If you have a positive blood group, you have the Rh(D) antigen. It is the most common.
  • If you have a negative blood groupyou do not possess the Rh(D) antigen. It’s less common.

When you add all of these options up, it comes down to these eight common blood types.

How does blood donation work?

Donating blood is easy, relatively painless and saves lives. “Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood or platelets,” says Dr. Quraishy.

And if you have type O negative blood, your donation can help anyone in need, which is extremely important. Here are some facts you should know about type O negative blood and donating blood.

1. Almost anyone can receive type O negative blood

As a universal blood donor type, type O negative blood can be sent to almost anyone who needs blood. This makes it particularly life-saving in urgent emergencies where someone is losing a lot of blood.

“If we receive a patient in the emergency room who has suffered a serious injury and is bleeding, time is running out and we don’t always have time to determine their blood type,” explains Dr. Fertel. “In this case, we give them type O negative blood.”

“It’s a very important blood type and one that we certainly need in abundance,” he adds.

2. People with type O negative blood can only receive type O negative blood

If you have type O negative blood, you can give blood to anyone, but you can’t receive blood from other people who also have type O negative blood.

3. Positive blood groups can receive O positive type blood

Although not as universal as type O negative blood, type O positive blood donations are also in high demand. Type O-positive blood can be donated to any type-positive person: other type O-positive people, as well as type A-positive, B-positive and AB-positive people.

4. Super rare blood group cannot receive O negative type blood

Rare blood types occur in 0.1% or less of people. Having a rare blood type means that your blood lacks an antigen that most people have or has an antigen that most people don’t. The vast majority of people with rare blood types can still receive type O negative blood.

The exception is people with “golden blood”. It is estimated that 1 in 6 million people have this very rare type, technically known as Rh null blood, because it lacks all Rh antigens, not just D. There are less than 50 people on the planet who have it. , and they can I don’t get type O negative blood – only other Rh null blood.

Who can donate blood?

“When it comes to blood donations, everything counts,” says Dr. Fertel. “Any blood that can be donated in a blood transfusion can really make a difference in saving someone’s life.”

People of all blood types are welcome and encouraged to donate, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. You can donate whole blood every 56 days, as long as you:

  • Are generally in good health.
  • Be at least 17 years old, in most states (or 16 with parental consent, in others).
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds (although additional height and weight requirements apply to teenage donors).

Some restrictions apply, so check out the full list of American Red Cross eligibility criteria for donating blood before heading to a local donation drive.

What happens when you donate blood?

Once you’ve started the process, donating blood is simple.

“A trained professional will insert a brand new, sterile needle into your arm to extract some of your blood,” says Dr. Fertel. “Once this blood has been tested, it goes through various preservation mechanisms and is divided to be donated to people who need it.”

Your blood regenerates, but to help your body recover quickly, eat iron-rich foods and stay hydrated before and after donation.

How to learn your blood type

For the most part, Dr. Fertel says it’s helpful but actually not essential to know your own blood type. “Hospitals have to check your blood type whenever you need it, even if you already know it,” he notes. “Before they give you blood, they need to make sure it’s safe and effective – that’s why O-negative can be useful in urgent emergencies.”

However, there are several ways to find out your blood type.

  • Via your medical file: If you had blood drawn for an operation or pregnancy, your doctor’s office should have a record of your blood type. And if your doctor’s office uses an online medical record system like MyChart, you can find this information in your account.
  • Through a blood collection center, for example, the American Red Cross: When you donate blood, the donor card you receive afterwards shows your blood type, just like your account in the organization’s app.

Regardless of your blood type, if you are eligible, consider donating. It’s a simple, relatively painless and life-saving way to help others in need. “All blood groups are useful,” recalls Dr. Fertel. “Any blood type can make a difference in someone’s life.”

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