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 donation 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 positive (AB+). One of the rarest of all blood types, only 3% 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.

Universal plasma donors

People with AB type blood (positive or negative) are universal plasma donors. Only 4% of the population has type AB blood. Plasma from AB donors can be given to patients with any blood type, making it extremely important for those in need. AB donors are encouraged to donate Plasma or Platelets.

What unique powers does your blood type hold? Check out our Target Your Type tool to learn more about the right donation method for you. You can maximize your donation to make the largest impact. Schedule a donation appointment in the month of April and give the gift of life in honor of National Donate Life Month!

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Lauren Frame

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

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