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What are blood types, and why are they important?

The most important blood type classification systems are the ABO system and the Rh system. A, B, AB, and O are the blood types in the ABO system. Each type of blood in the ABO system also has a positive or negative Rh factor. For example, if you have "A+ blood," it means your blood is type A in the ABO system and your Rh factor is positive.

If you get blood in a transfusion that isn't the right type, you may have a transfusion reaction. A mild transfusion reaction rarely is dangerous, but you must get treatment quickly. A severe transfusion reaction can be deadly.

How is blood collected?

Blood banks collect blood from volunteer donors. Before they donate, volunteers must answer questions about their current health, health history, and any diseases they may have been exposed to through travel to foreign countries, sexual behavior, drug use, or needle sticks (such as from tattoos). Only people who pass this survey are allowed to donate blood.

Donated blood is then carefully tested for certain diseases and to find out the blood type. If there is any chance that the blood may not be safe to use, it is thrown away.

Most blood that passes the tests is then split into its components and sent out for use.

Blood and its components can be stored or used for only a short time before they must be thrown away. This is why blood banks are always looking for donors.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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