Medical News Today: Blood transfusions: What to know

Blood transfusions are very safe. Strict procedures exist to ensure that the testing, handling, and storage of donated blood is as safe as possible.

However, it is possible for a person’s body to react to the new blood. Such reactions can be either mild or severe.

Some reactions occur immediately, while others can take several days to appear. Examples include:


Allergic reactions are common. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allergic reactions make up over 50% of reported reactions to blood transfusions.

Antihistamine medications can help treat allergic reactions.


A person may experience a fever following a blood transfusion.

Although this is not serious, if they also experience chest pain or nausea, they should let a doctor know as soon as possible.

Hemolytic reaction

This can occur when the blood types are not compatible, causing the immune system to attack the new blood cells.

This is a serious reaction, but it is very rare.

Symptoms may include:

  • lower back pain
  • chest pain
  • dark urine
  • nausea
  • fever

Transmission of infections

In very rare cases, donated blood can contain bacteria, viruses, or parasites that may cause infections such as HIV or hepatitis B or C.

However, according to the CDC, experts test every blood donation for these contaminants. It is therefore very rare for a person to contract an infection from a blood transfusion.

In fact, according to the American Red Cross, the chance of a person contracting hepatitis B is 1 in 300,000, and the likelihood of contracting hepatitis C is 1 in 1.5 million.

The chances of getting HIV from a blood transfusion in the United States is less than 1 in 1 million.

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