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Blood-Transfusion Reaction Symptoms

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GENERAL INFORMATION

DESCRIPTION
Blood-transfusion reaction symptoms are triggered by the body’s response to a foreign substance. The blood, blood vessels, kidneys, heart, skin, central nervous system, and lungs are involved.

Appropriate health care includes:

  • Physician’s monitoring of general condition and medications.
  • Hospitalization. Patients receiving transfusions are usually in a hospital or outpatient surgical facility, and reactions can be treated when they occur. Keep your child awake and alert during a blood transfusion, if possible, so you can notify medical personnel immediately if symptoms occur in your child.
  • Self-care after diagnosis.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

Less serious:

  • Chills and fever.
  • Backache or other aches and pains.

Hives and itching. More serious:

  • Blood-cell destruction (hemolysis), causing shortness of breath, severe headache, chest or back pain, and blood in the urine.

CAUSES
Transfusions of a different blood type than that of the patient. This may occur from errors in matching or from the use of incompletely matched blood in an emergency.

RISK FACTORS
Blood transfusions in emergency situations, when careful typing and matching of blood must be bypassed.
Blood transfusions from donors who carry infections.

PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE

CAUSES

  • Use of diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) and acetaminophen prior to transfusion may prevent minor reactions.
  • If surgery is planned at least 1 month in advance, an older child’s own blood may be drawn and stored for use during surgery, if necessary. Transfusion with one’s own blood is least likely to produce a reaction, but your doctor will instruct you as to age and weight minimums for any blood donation.

BASIC INFORMATION

MEDICAL TESTS

  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory blood tests to recheck compatibility and detect complications.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS

  • Acute kidney failure.
  • Anaphylaxis.
  • Congestive heart failure from too rapid transfusion.
  • Hypothermia from blood that is too cold.

PROBABLE OUTCOME
Most reactions clear gradually after the transfusion is halted. A few reactions are fatal.

TREATMENT

HOME CARE
Use cool baths if hives persist after transfusion.

MEDICATION

  • Your doctor may prescribe:
  • Antihistamines to decrease hives and itching.
  • Cortisone drugs to decrease the likelihood of acute kidney failure.
  • Antihypertensives, if blood pressure rises too high, or hypertensives, such as ephedrine or epinephrine, if blood pressure drops too low.

ACTIVITY
Your child can resume normal activities as soon as symptoms improve after transfusion.

DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.

OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?
When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.

CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of a blood-transfusion reaction during or after a transfusion. Call immediately. This is an emergency!

From the Complete Guide to Pediatric Symptoms, Illness & Medications by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. © 1989 The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc.; electronic rights by Medical Data Exchange.

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