The Bizarre Side Effects of Blood Transfusions

When an individual’s health requires a blood transfusion, it is often due to some life-threatening illness or injury. Receiving a transfusion of blood from a healthy donor may be the only way to increase the red blood cell count in the person’s body, so as to allow the body to fight off the illness or recover from the injury. Blood transfusions can have countless life-saving benefits.

Blood transfusions can have rare and bizarre side effects as well. In one instance, a young boy was suddenly stricken with food allergies after receiving a blood transfusion as part of his brain cancer treatment. Live Science reports the boy had no prior history of fish or nut allergies. It wasn’t until he went into anaphylactic shock after eating salmon, and again after eating a candy containing nuts, that doctors realized his allergies were likely caused by a protein contained in the transfused blood. Researchers were later able to confirm the donor suffered from an allergy to nuts, fish and shellfish. Fortunately for the boy, the bizarre side effects did not last. Approximately five months later, the boy was back to eating fish and nuts in moderation.

Blood Transfusion and Supply Statistics

According to statistics from the American Red Cross, the average blood transfusion requires nearly three pints of blood and at least 41,000 blood donations are needed on a daily basis. In fact, someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds. Certain people may need multiple blood transfusions throughout the course of their lives.

Hospitals and other emergency facilities rely on people donating blood. Each year, 15.8 million blood donations are collected from 9.2 million people in the United States alone. These donations come from approximately 10 percent of the population, despite 38 percent being eligible to donate. Without these blood donations, many lives would be lost.

Other Blood Transfusion Risks

As millions of people have to donate blood for there to be enough blood on hand in emergency situations, recipients need to realize a blood transfusion does not come without the potential for certain risks. In addition to contracting a food allergy through a blood transfusion, the CDC states that recipients could also experience the following blood transfusion side effects and risks:

  • Itchy skin
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Swelling
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Iron overload

In rare cases, a recipient may get an infection as a result of a blood transfusion. As most donors are required to be healthy before donating blood, and blood is thoroughly tested before being added to a blood bank or hospital supply, the risk of infection is low.

If the blood an individual receives through a transfusion does not have the same traits as the individual’s own blood, his or her body may try and reject it. When an individual’s body develops antibodies to a certain blood type or from a specific blood donor, action will need to be taken to find a very close match.

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