Does My Blood Type Really Matter?

When it comes to a few things, I’m not a very picky guy.

I enjoy pizza either in plain cheese form or loaded sky-high with toppings. When it comes to my love for automobiles, I can appreciate a car with fine lines regardless of the origin of make or model. Even down to my music choices as of late, I don’t discriminate between Marvin Gaye, The Misfits or Armin Van Buuren; just let the track play and the grooving commence. But when it comes to the wide world of Hematology (the overall study of blood), blood type is something where a certain sense of fastidiousness is definitely needed!

Overall, there are eight different blood types: A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, and finally AB-. Blood type is something almost like your eye or hair color. You quite literally inherit that type genetically from your parents. Blood type is something that is crucial in medical emergencies and other situations, due to the fact that administering the wrong type of blood during a transfusion can result in uncompromising effects on the immune system. Knowing your blood type isn’t only extremely helpful for medical reasons alone, but as a blood donor you will know if it would be more helpful for you to do a whole blood donation or possibly an apheresis style donation.

Let’s take a quick glance at a few cases where blood type matters!

  • Soldiers on the battlefield have their blood type labeled on their identification tags.

I was watching an interesting show on the Science Channel calledOddities. It’s a show about an oddball and, dare I say, avant-garde kind of shop that specializes in all sorts of weird and interesting, time-period-specific collectables that you wouldn’t normally see in most antique shops. In this episode particularly, there was an artist interested in purchasing a blood transfusion kit from World War I. Whenever a solider was injured to the point that they needed to receive a blood transfusion, they could quickly identify the type needed and perform the transfusion – literally straight from the donating soldier into whoever would be receiving it! A lot of donors I talk to while on the phones at Incept, usually donate while out and about. But talk about donating on the go!

  • Different ethnic cultures have varying percentages of certain blood types.

Depending on where you are from or what your cultural background is can have a lot to do with your blood type, believe it or not. Blood centers and blood banks during times of shortages will even gently request that people of certain ethnicity donate in order to stabilize supplies of specific blood types. In America, Caucasian donors make up the highest percent of donors with A+, while Hispanic donors usually make up the highest percent of O+ type donors. People of Asian dexcent have the highest percentage of B+ blood donors.

  • What does it mean to be a Universal Donor orUniversal Recipient?

You might know or have heard that the blood type O- is the type of blood that, regardless of the type of blood the recipient has, can be accepted by everyone during a transfusion therefore, making them the universal donors of donating. When it comes to individuals who have AB blood types, they are the only ones able to receive transfusions of AB blood successfully, yet can still receive all other blood types making them the only universal recipients. The deciding factor: antigens (anything capable of inducing a reaction to our immune systems), which are proteins found on our red cells tissue and membranes. Really it’s the kind of antigens (if you have any even) and antibodies in your plasma that will determine which blood type you can receive.

We’ve just scratched the surface of this topic, since Hematology is quite an intensive field of study in medicine. Regardless, what other cases can you think of in which blood type matters?