In medicine, knowing a patient’s blood type is important, especially when it comes to blood transfusions. With a blood transfusion, blood or part of the blood is collected from one person and is given to another. If the wrong blood types are mixed, it can lead to a clumping of blood cells and that can be potentially fatal. Blood transfusions are typically done in surgeries, during treatments for cancer and anemia, and traumatic injuries. They also can be given to pregnant patients during difficult deliveries.
A patient’s blood type also can serve as a guide during medical decisions during pregnancy. Further, knowledge of blood type is important when donating blood. Even if you don’t know your blood type, Maya Franklin, external communications manager at the American Red Cross in Charlotte, says that donors can be notified of their blood types following blood donations when the donors receive their blood donor cards. This information is also available on a donor’s profile on the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
Surprisingly, finding out your blood type may not be as easy as calling your doctor or combing through medical records. These efforts typically won’t yield an answer, however, Brian Poirier, M.D., medical director of regional laboratories at Labcorp, suggests you have your health care provider simply order a blood test. It’s a misconception to assume that your blood type would automatically be included in your lab work or medical records. He says that blood type tests are not run on every sample they receive but only when they receive a specific order from the individual’s health care provider. Also check with your insurance provider because most don’t cover blood type testing.
There are at-home tests that can be conducted in the privacy of your home. These blood type tests can be found on Amazon.com for under $20. But if you opt out of pricking yourself and mailing in your blood, donating blood is a simple and effective way to find your blood type. Plus, you’ll be helping someone in need.
Maya Franklin says that eligible donors of all blood types are needed to help save lives. Type O blood is the blood group most needed by hospitals but is often in short supply. “Type O negative is the universal blood type and is what emergency room personnel reach for when there’s not time to determine a patient’s blood type in the most serious situations,” she said. “Again, all blood types are needed, but if you are Type O negative, in the world of medicine, donating regularly would make you a superhero.”