Fact Sheet: Check Your Race
Check your race during your health history today – and know you could be helping individuals with sickle cell disease and rare blood types.
Blood types can be specific to race.
Red blood cells carry markers called antigens on their surface that determine one’s blood type. Most are one of the following categories: A, B, AB, and O. There are more than 600 known antigens, and some are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups. For example, many African Americans and people of African descent have rare blood types, such as types U negative and Duffy negative. Patients who have rare blood types or receive frequent blood transfusions need close blood type matches.
The Red Cross asks all donors to provide their race during the health history process. Selecting your race will notify our laboratories to conduct extra screening. The laboratories screen to determine if your blood donations can help people with sickle cell disease or rare blood types. The most compatible blood for patients with sickle cell disease or those with rare blood types often comes from donors of the same race or similar ethnicity.
Increasing the number of blood donors from all racial and ethnic groups is vital.
Blood that is closely matched between donor and patient can lower the risk of patients developing complications. This is especially important for those receiving ongoing blood transfusions. If a patient receives a transfusion that isn’t an exact match to their blood type, they develop antibodies to the foreign antigens. If the patient receives another transfusion in the future with the same mismatch, it can be fatal. It is vital that our blood supply reflects the diversity of our population to best meet the needs of all. Blood donations are constantly needed to help people with complicated childbirths, those battling cancer, people with chronic health conditions such as sickle cell disease, those with traumatic injuries from accidents, and many more.
You can help the Red Cross provide the most compatible blood to help meet the needs of patients from all backgrounds.
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