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Blood Transfusion Reactions


A blood transfusion reaction is a harmful immune system response to donor blood. You can have a reaction if you get donor blood that is the wrong type or if you are allergic to something in the donor blood. Reactions can happen right away or much later, and can be mild or severe.



  • Antipyretics: This medicine is given to decrease a fever.
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines decrease itching and swelling from a mild allergic reaction.
  • Steroids: You may be given steroids for a few days to prevent inflammation from returning.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

Prevent another transfusion reaction:

  • Give complete health information: Tell your caregivers about your health conditions, transfusions, and pregnancies.
  • Alert your caregivers: Tell your caregivers 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: Sometimes you can supply your own blood for transfusion during surgery. This is called autologous blood donation. Your blood will need to be drawn and stored a few weeks before a scheduled procedure.
  • Carry medical alert identification: Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you had a blood transfusion reaction. Caregivers may give you antipyretic or antihistamine medicine before the transfusion if you have had an allergic reaction.


Ice will help decrease pain and swelling at the transfusion site. Put ice in a plastic bag and wrap a towel around it. Apply the wrapped bag to your transfusion site for 20 minutes each hour or as directed.

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • 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. You feel lightheaded and confused. Your lips or fingernails turn blue.
  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes look yellow.
  • You develop headaches or double vision.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You have chest pain or feel short of breath.

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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.