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What Is the Universal Blood Type?

Lauren Frame
April 09, 2019

In emergency situations, doctors don’t always have time to determine a patient’s blood type before working to save their life. In these instances doctors reach for the universal blood type. 

What Is the Universal Blood Type?

The universal blood type is O negative (O-). Donors with type O- blood have the unique power to help anyone in need of a blood transfusion.

Red blood cells from O- donors can be transfused to anyone, regardless of the person’s blood type. This is crucial with trauma patients in those early moments of an emergency where doctors will often depend on O- blood to help save the person’s life.

Once the patient’s blood type is determined, doctors can switch to that blood type for future transfusions.

Quick facts about O-

  • 7% of the population has O- blood.
  • O- blood is the blood type in the highest demand.
  • O- blood is the preferred blood type for people with underdeveloped immune systems, including premature babies and cancer patients.

The preferred donation methods for O- donors are Double Red Blood Cell and Whole Blood. These two donation types allow O- donors to maximize their donations and make the largest impact for patients in need.

While O- is the universal blood type for whole blood and red blood cell transfusions, it is not the rarest blood type nor is it the universal blood type for platelet or plasma transfusions.

Universal Blood Type for Platelet Transfusions

The universal blood type for platelet transfusions is AB Negative (AB-). One of the rarest of all blood types, only 1% of the population has this special blood type. Platelets from AB- donors can be used for any patient in need. AB- donors are encouraged to donate Plasma or Platelets.


Lauren Frame

Lauren Frame is a Graphic Designer at OneBlood. She has a passion for motivating and educating blood donors through storytelling.

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