Universal Blood Donors

Universal Blood Donors

Universal Blood Donors

In an emergency situation that requires a blood transfusion, time is of the essence. As precious moments tick by, there’s not a minute to waste, and oftentimes, medical providers that are caring for patients reach for the blood that they know will help complete a successful transfusion — type O-negative (O-). 

Type O-negative is a really special kind of blood because it is the Universal Donor to all blood types. In this blog, we will take a closer look at O- and get into the nitty-gritty of what makes it so precious in the medical community. 

Universal Blood Donors

When a blood transfusion takes place, medical providers can’t just choose any blood type for the recipient. The antigens that are present in your blood are designed to attack foreign substances (like bacteria and viruses) to keep you safe, and it might mistake an unfamiliar antigen as a threat, which can have life-threatening results for a recipient if the wrong blood type is transfused. For this reason, transfusions must be done with specific blood types with like antigens, or with no antigens.

This is where type O- can save the day! O-negative blood has no antigens or Rh factors, so it won’t trigger an immune response in a recipient. This is why it has been dubbed the Universal Donor — it is the only blood type that can safely give to every other blood type. 

To understand why O-negative blood is the universal donor, we need a quick lesson on the properties of different blood types. Blood types are determined by the presence, or absence, of two antigens known as A and B. Another characteristic that differentiates blood types is called the Rh factor, which can either be present (+) or absent (-) — resulting in eight main blood types. These types are A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+, and O-. O- is the incredible blood type that can safely donate to all eight types!

Why Type O-Negative Blood is Important

Because O-negative blood is the Universal Donor, it is often in high demand at hospitals and blood banks. In an emergency situation, when someone needs blood quickly, it’s not always possible to know the patient’s blood type. Ideally, transfusions are done with a recipient’s exact blood type — and even then, the donor’s and recipient’s blood are mixed to check compatibility in a process called crossmatching. However, clinicians don’t always have the luxury of time. When there’s not a moment to lose, type O-negative blood is usually the best option for an emergency transfusion. 

Outside of emergency situations, O-negative blood is also the safest bet for newborns who have deficiencies and need transfusions. Even the littlest recipients can benefit from Universal Donor blood! (and PS – The Blood Connection also collects blood specifically for babies!)

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Do you know your blood type? You might have that incredible O-negative blood flowing through your veins and not even know it! Only 7% of the population has O-negative blood. However, no matter your blood type, giving blood is an important and selfless thing to do. You can save up to three lives with each donation!

If you’re interested in knowing your blood type and donating blood, contact The Blood Connection or visit our website at thebloodconnection.com. We’d be happy to talk with you and tell you about the amazing things that giving blood can do for your community!

Blood Type Facts

Blood Type Facts

Blood Type Facts

Did you know that approximately 33% of Americans do not know their blood type?

Although knowing your blood type isn’t knowledge that most people need on a daily basis, it’s helpful information to have on hand! You never know when you might be faced with an emergency where you need a transfusion, and it’s good to be aware of how common or rare your blood type is. 

While all blood might look very similar from the outside, there are some important differences on the cellular level. Your blood is unique — and you can’t simply donate or receive blood from just anyone. In this blog, we will discuss why this is the case. Let’s take a look at all things blood types, including what the differences between them are, why type matters for transfusions, and how you can determine your own blood type (hint, it’s something that TBC can help with!). 

Why Blood Types Matter for Transfusions

Blood types must be matched very specifically for recipients to have a safe transfusion. Incompatible blood can trigger the body’s immune system to fight the donated blood, which can cause serious or even life-threatening complications.

A and B antigens and the Rh proteins must all be taken into consideration for appropriate blood transfusions. Rh-negative patients can only receive blood that is Rh-negative, while Rh-positive patients can receive either Rh-positive or negative blood. 

There are a couple of special blood types to keep in mind with transfusions, and these are Type O- and Type AB+. Those with Type AB+ are called universal recipients, meaning that they can receive any blood type during a transfusion. Type O- blood is the universal donor, so it can be given to those with any other blood type. Because type O- is universally received, it is often in short supply in blood banks. 

Blood banks and hospitals don’t want to rely on Type O- blood for every transfusion, which is why it is crucial for all blood types to donate! Yes, even common blood types are encouraged to donate as often as they can — as these common types are the ones most often needed in transfusions. 

How Blood Types Are Determined

In a majority of the population, there are four major blood groups that are determined by the presence or absence of two antigens, A and B. Antigens are protein molecules found on the surface of red blood cells whose purpose is to identify foreign substances in the body, such as bacteria or viruses, and alert the body’s immune system to destroy them. 

Each blood group has a different composition of these antigens:

Group A

Type A blood has A antigens on the red blood cells and B antibodies in the plasma. 

Group B

Type B blood has B antigens on the red blood cells and A antibodies in the plasma.

Group AB

Type AB blood has both A and B antigens on the red blood cells and neither A nor B antibodies in the plasma. 

Group O

Type O blood has neither A or B antigens on the red blood cells and both A and B antibodies in the plasma. 

In addition to the A and B antigens, another factor in determining blood type is a protein called the Rh factor, which is either present or absent. Thus, there are eight blood types that someone could have; A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+, and O-.

What’s My Blood Type?

Your blood type is a genetic trait inherited from your parents, much like your eye color or facial features. So, if both of your parents have Type B+ blood, it is incredibly likely that you, too, will have Type B+ blood. To find out your blood type, asking your parents is a good place to start. 

However, if you need a more accurate way to find out your blood type, a great way to do this is by donating blood! When you donate blood with The Blood Connection, we will tell you your blood type and even give you a blood donor card with your blood type on it so that you don’t forget. From there, your donation will go on to save up to three lives in your local community, and you’ll receive TBC rewards for being alifesaver!

To learn more about donating blood or to find a blood donation center, contact The Blood Connection today or visit our website. We would love to chat with you and talk about how you can start saving lives today!

Donating Blood and Diabetes

Donating Blood and Diabetes


Donating Blood and Diabetes

Although blood centers constantly need donations to keep their supply levels stable, a surprisingly low percentage of Americans give blood each year. Only 3% of eligible donors give blood each year, possibly because many eligible donors don’t know they meet the donation requirements. For example, people with diabetes are often unsure whether or not they can become blood donors. It’s easy to see why since diabetes is a disease that affects the blood. The good news is that even if you have diabetes, you may be eligible to give the gift of life!

Today, we will review when people with diabetes can donate blood and share some tips to make the donation process successful. 

Can people with diabetes give blood?

If you are in generally good health and your diabetes is well-managed – then yes, you can give blood! It doesn’t matter if you have Type 1 or Type 2; as long as the diabetes is under control, you are an eligible donor. Congratulations!

Although having diabetes doesn’t automatically disqualify a potential donor, it is still a good idea to check with your doctor before donating. It is crucial to ensure that your blood glucose level is within the target range set by your medical provider, as blood with too much sugar does not store well. 

If you have a doctor’s appointment in the days following your donation, it’s important to let your physician know that you’ve recently given blood. Some people with Type 1 diabetes report slightly elevated blood glucose levels 3-5 days after donating. Donating can also cause A1c or HbA1c levels to be falsely lowered. This is likely due to the temporary loss of blood volume and accelerated red blood cell turnover following a donation. 

It’s also worth noting that the type of medication you take to manage your diabetes won’t disqualify you from donating blood. Whether you take insulin injections or oral medications, you are still eligible to give blood as long as a qualified health professional prescribes the medicine and it helps keep your condition under control.

Blood donation tips for diabetics

Before making an appointment to donate blood, there are a few things to keep in mind so that your donation experience goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Check your blood glucose levels regularly in the days leading up to your appointment.
  • Drink extra water on the day of your donation to avoid dehydration and feeling unwell.
  • Follow a healthy diet that keeps your diabetes under control, especially if your doctor recommends it.
  • Get ready to become a lifesaver!

There are so many misconceptions about who can and cannot donate blood, and we want everyone who is eligible to know they can save up to three lives with each donation. Even if you were previously told that you weren’t eligible to donate blood due to diabetes, we encourage you to review our updated eligibility requirements. There’s a good chance that you can give the gift of life to someone who needs it.

If you’re thinking about giving blood, want to make an appointment, or are interested in hosting a blood drive, visit The Blood Connection website or contact us today. We would love to chat with you about the donation process and share how your selflessness can benefit your community!

Blood Donation and Cancer

Blood Donation and Cancer


Blood Donation and Cancer

Here at The Blood Connection, we get a lot of questions about blood donation and how it relates to cancer. This isn’t surprising, considering that approximately 39.5% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Cancer impacts almost every American in one way or another — whether they are personally diagnosed or have a close friend or family member who receives a diagnosis. 

With this in mind, let’s answer some of the most common questions regarding cancer patients, cancer survivors, and blood donation. 

Can cancer patients give blood?

The short answer here is no, cancer patients cannot give blood until they’re in remission, no matter what type of cancer it is. Why? This precaution is for the safety of both cancer patients and potential blood recipients. Although the chance is very low, it is possible that a blood transfusion recipient with a weakened immune system might not be able to fight off the cancer cells (if present) in the blood they receive. Because of this possibility, cancer patients are not eligible to donate blood — but they may be able to in the future when they are in remission.

Can cancer survivors donate blood?

Yes! Most cancer survivors are eligible to donate blood. If the cancer has been successfully treated and it has been 12+ months since the last treatment was completed, cancer survivors can be blood donors. It’s important to note, however, this waiting period isn’t required for all cancer survivors. Those who have had lower-risk cancers such as squamous or basal cell cancers can donate if the cancer has been removed and healed completely — no 12-month waiting period is required. 

Blood Transfusions in Cancer Treatment

Blood donations play a critical role in the treatment and recovery of cancer patients. In fact, 25% of the nation’s blood supply goes to help cancer patients for  life-saving treatments. Many cancer patients, especially those undergoing chemotherapy, need regular blood transfusions to lessen the unpleasant side effects of treatments and improve their quality of life. 

Since cancers of the blood affect blood production the most, patients with these cancers are most in need of blood transfusions. Transfusions reduce the risk of complications that can come with a low cell count, and they also give the body healthy blood cells that it’s not producing on its own. 

Although nearly 1.9 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year, and many of these patients will need a blood transfusion at some point during their treatment, only 3% of eligible Americans donate blood each year. This is just one of many reasons why donating blood is so important! There’s a good chance your donation could help someone battling cancer, and just a few minutes of your time can make a lifelong difference for them.

If you are considering donating blood or setting up a blood drive in your community, visit The Blood Connection website to get in touch with us today.  We would love to talk with you and give you more information on how you can be a lifesaver in your community. 

What Men Need to Know About Giving Blood

What Men Need to Know About Giving Blood

What Men Need to Know About Giving Blood

People have a lot of questions about donating blood. 

  • Will donating blood make me sick?
  • Can I give blood if I’m a vegetarian?
  • Can I donate if I’m on [insert medication here]?

It’s only natural for people to wonder whether they’re eligible to donate blood and how the process will affect them. Today, we’re going to address a few of the questions that usually come from our male donors. Men, guys, fellas, dudes … you’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. 

Does donating blood lower testosterone levels?

Many men wonder if giving blood will lower their testosterone levels – and the answer here is simple: Nope, it won’t long term. There are no associations between blood donation and lower testosterone levels. That being said, if testosterone levels are a concern, we certainly recommend following up with a physician.

Does giving blood impact cardiovascular health?

While cardiovascular events are scary for both men and women, men tend to be at a higher risk. How much higher? Between 70% and 89% of sudden heart attacks happen in men. There are numerous reasons why this is the case, but the fact remains that heart health is important, and one surprising way that men (and women) can improve their cardiovascular health is by giving blood regularly. Why is that? Good question.

Donating blood reduces blood viscosity. Blood viscosity can be a reliable predictor of a cardiovascular event in a patient. The thicker and stickier blood is, the more friction there is in blood vessels. This friction can cause damage and contribute to the possibility of a cardiovascular event. Giving blood can reduce the viscosity of a patient’s blood, reducing the potential damage to their blood vessels. 

A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) backs up this idea. The study found that participants between the ages of 43 and 61 had fewer heart attacks and strokes when they donated blood once every six months. This is great news! These findings suggest that donating blood not only helps others but can also benefit your personal health. It is important to note though: to maintain proper cardiovascular health, it is also essential to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet. If you are healthy, that also makes you eligible to donate blood in the first place.

Can donating blood burn calories?

Did you know donating blood will burn calories? Yep, it’s true! A study from the University of California San Diego found that blood donors burn an average of 650 calories per session. While this is something that both men and women can benefit from, men may especially be interested in burning a few extra calories as statistics show that men tend to be more overweight than women — 33% of men compared to 25% of women.

Of course, giving blood shouldn’t be the only tool people use to burn calories for weight loss. Just as with maintaining heart health, it is also important to exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced diet when trying to lose weight.  

Does being a blood donor reduce cancer risk?

There is no single factor that determines someone’s cancer risk; however, donating blood can reduce the risk of at least one contributing factor. 

Donating blood can reduce iron in the body, and the reduction of iron stores is linked to a lower risk of cancer, according to The Journal of National Cancer Institute. Iron is thought to increase free-radical damage in the body, and this damage has been linked to a higher risk of cancer and aging. Since men are more likely to get cancer than women, this is certainly a factor to consider when setting up an appointment to donate blood.  

Donating blood has more upsides than most people think. Not only can you save up to three lives with just one donation, giving blood also has many benefits for your health. To learn more about donating blood or to find a TBC location near you, visit our website or contact us. We would love to hear from you!

What Women Need to Know About Giving Blood

What Women Need to Know About Giving Blood

What Women Need to Know About Giving Blood

Donating blood or hosting a blood drive is a wonderful, selfless way to give back to your community. Each donation has the power to save up to three lives. Those lives could belong to anyone of any age, gender, or race, and we think that’s incredible! We are very grateful for all of our donors and hosts — you are the ones who make a difference and keep our life-saving mission alive. 

Of course, there are some donation requirements in place to ensure our generous donors are eligible, and women face some unique situations that can affect their ability to donate blood. That’s why we’re here today. We want to answer some of the questions that matter most to our female donors. 

Can women donate blood while pregnant?

Many of our regular female donors are curious if they can continue giving blood if they are expecting a child. As much as we appreciate their desire to donate, the answer is no.

Pregnant women need to focus on keeping their babies healthy, and donating blood is counteractive to this goal. The body needs blood and iron to support the fetus during pregnancy, and a lack of iron and nutrients after giving blood can increase the risk of complications like anemia. It can also compromise the health of the mother and the baby. The average woman needs 350-500 more milligrams of iron while pregnant to prevent an iron deficiency, so that’s why pregnant women cannot give blood. 

So, when can expectant mothers give blood again? The FDA recommends waiting six weeks after giving birth, which allows the woman time to heal and recover from pregnancy and delivery. Consulting a physician is best before giving blood again.

New mothers should also avoid giving blood if they plan to breastfeed. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns against donating blood while breastfeeding, as this can limit the vital nutrients going to the newborn. They recommend waiting nine months after giving birth or three months after the baby is weaned before the mother starts giving blood again. 

While women shouldn’t give blood while pregnant or breastfeeding, they do have the option to donate cord blood, the blood left over in the placenta and umbilical cord after the baby is born. Incredibly valuable to the medical community, cord blood is rich in stem cells, which are used to develop treatments to help cancer patients and other immunocompromised individuals. 

It’s important to note — you will not be asked about pregnancy during the screening process before giving blood. If you think you might be pregnant, we encourage you to take a pregnancy test before your blood donation appointment to make sure. 

If you still want to give back to the community but cannot donate blood yourself, consider hosting a blood drive. Get in touch with us, and one of our friendly TBC staff members will be in touch to help you through the process. 

Can women donate blood while menstruating?

Due to the nature of a period, it’s only natural to wonder whether or not it’s a good idea to give blood while menstruating. The good news is, yes, women can give blood while menstruating. Of course, if you are experiencing a particularly heavy cycle, waiting until your period is over may be best, as giving blood could cause your iron levels to drop. This temporary drop could make you feel fatigued after your donation or could make you ineligible at the time. We want all of our donors to have a rewarding experience, and there’s no shame in waiting another week or two to donate just to be safe.

As with any other donor, women must meet a few other requirements before giving blood. Donors must be at least 17 years old (or 16 years old with the permission of a parent or guardian, 16 and 17 with parental consent in North Carolina), weigh at least 110 pounds, and be in generally good health. As a general rule, potential donors should avoid giving blood if they feel unwell or have a fever. 

The Blood Connection is incredibly grateful for every donor who gives selflessly and saves lives. To learn more about The Blood Connection and find a donation location near you, visit our website or give us a call. We would love to hear from you and tell you more about how you can give back to your community.