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Blood Transfusion Reactions


A blood transfusion reaction

is a harmful immune system response to donor blood. Reactions can occur right away or much later, and can be mild or severe.

Signs and symptoms of an immediate reaction:

Healthcare providers will stop the transfusion if you have any of the following immediate transfusion reactions:

  • A strong feeling of dread or that something is wrong
  • Fainting or breathing problems
  • Fever and chills
  • Itching, hives, or swelling
  • Pain or burning in your abdomen, chest, or back, or at the transfusion site
  • Swelling and a large bruise at the transfusion site
  • Blood in your urine
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Signs and symptoms of a delayed reaction:

A delayed blood transfusion reaction can begin within 3 to 10 days. You may also have a reaction the next time you receive blood. You may have any of the following:

  • A high fever and chills
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Little or no urination
  • Headaches, double vision, or seizures
  • Yellowing of your skin or eyes
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Bruises, fatigue, or weakness

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have a skin rash, hives, swelling, or itching.
  • You have trouble breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing.
  • Your throat tightens or your lips or tongue swell.
  • You have difficulty swallowing or speaking.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You have a headache or double vision.
  • You are lightheaded, confused, or feel like you are going to faint.
  • You have nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps, or you are vomiting.
  • You see pinpoint purple spots or purple patches on your body.
  • You feel dizzy and weak about 7 days after your transfusion.
  • Your skin feels sweaty and cold.
  • Your lips or fingernails look blue.
  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes look yellow.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about blood transfusions.


may include any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to lower a fever, decrease itching and swelling from a mild reaction, or prevent inflammation from returning.
  • Fluids may be given through your IV to prevent your blood pressure from falling too low. IV fluids will also help your kidneys get rid of donor red blood cells that your immune system has destroyed.
  • Extra oxygen may be given if you have trouble breathing.

Prevent another transfusion reaction:

  • Give complete health information. Tell your healthcare providers about your health conditions, transfusions, and pregnancies.
  • Alert your healthcare providers about any problems. Tell your healthcare providers right away if something feels wrong. They will stop the transfusion and treat your symptoms. Pain, nausea, itching, or a large bruise at the transfusion site are good reasons to stop the transfusion.
  • Ask if you can use your own blood. You may be able to get your own blood during surgery. Your blood will need to be drawn and stored a few weeks before a scheduled surgery.
  • Carry medical alert identification. Wear jewelry or carry a card that says you had a blood transfusion reaction. Healthcare providers may give you medicine before the transfusion to prevent a reaction.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Blood Transfusion Reactions (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.