Red Cross Announces Critical Need for Type O Negative Blood
The American Red Cross is urging eligible people to donate blood this summer, especially those with Type O negative, as the supply in the United States has dropped to critically low levels. Type O negative blood is always in high demand because it can be transfused to patients with any blood type, particularly in emergency situations when doctors do not have enough time to cross-match a patient’s blood.
There are four major blood groups that include eight different common blood types which are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens – substances that can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body. Group A has only the A antigen on the red blood cell, for example, and Group B only has the B antigen. Those with Group AB blood has both A and B antigens on red cells. Group O blood has neither of these antigens, so they are safe to administer to a person of any type and the patient will not reject the transfusion.
In addition to A and B antigens, there is a third called the Rh factor, which can either be present (+) or negative (-). In general, Rh-negative blood is given to Rh-negative patients, but either Rh-positive or Rh-negative blood can be given to Rh-positive blood. O positive is the most common blood type. Only 7% of people in the US have type O negative blood.
Blood shortages are not unusual in the summer, because there are fewer donors giving due to summer vacations and fewer community hosted blood drives. But the need for blood doesn’t go away. More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day because every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood.
Donating blood is a safe and simple process. Blood donors must be at least 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), meet weight and height requirements, and be in good health. At the time of donation, each blood donor is given a “mini-physical” to check temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and hemoglobin to ensure it is safe for the donor to give blood. The entire blood donation process typically takes about an hour and 15 minutes.
For information on a blood drive near you, visit the American Red Cross website at redcrossblood.org.