The Gimmick of Blood Type Patches

Matt Landfair

Matt Six Actual
Staff member
There has been discussion of instances where they are applicable - civ at Walmart is not one...

BY: Tore Haugli

Blood type patches and why they are nothing more than gimmicks.

I was asked to type out a short post detailing why these kinds of patches – blood types, NKDA etc – are totally useless for real world application.

1. No professional pre-hospital medical provider will look for, or TRUST, medical information found on a patch velcroed to your gear. It will not affect how they examine or treat you.

2. No ER/Role 2/3 staff will trust or bother with medical information velcroed to your gear. They have advanced equipment to test everything to make sure they perform the correct interventions and administer the correct drugs/fluids. They also have the expertise and antidotes on hand to counter any negative effects, should they occur.

3. If you are going to wear anything denoting special needs with regards to medical care, wear proper items as provided by your physician.

4. Typed blood transfusion is definitive care, and is only carried out once a patient’s blood group has been typed correctly in a lab. Until that time, you will be given O Neg – universal donor blood.

5. Pre-hospital fluid resuscitation is done using colloids or crystalloids. Even if you were being treated in the field by a unit that has blood products with them, it will be O Neg. This is usually a Role 1 unit (in the military), that has the proper equipment to store as well as warm up blood prior to transfusing.

6. Transfusions require constant monitoring by trained professionals, and is not without risk even if you get the right blood type.

7. If given the incorrect blood, you can potentially die.

8. With regards to allergies, this has been remedied as much as possible through the use of medical equipment that has a low risk of causing said reactions. Some examples are:

-Nitrile gloves as opposed to latex
-Non-penicillin based ABX

9. Civ EMS will not give ABX in the field, or treat hypovolemic shock using anything other than colloids or crystalloids – for trauma.

10. If you suffer a medical emergency, chances are that you will have family or friends nearby, or other identifiers (medical bracelets, medications etc) or past medical history accessed by dispatch, that a NKDA patch is totally irrelevant.

11. In a military context the norm is that the patient is healthy and fit, with no previously detected underlying health risk factors. In the Norwegian mil, if you have a health conditions that affects your health status, you would only be cleared for restricted duties when deployed anyways.

In short, these patches are nothing but gimmicks and is not value added. They will not affect the treatment you receive, be it in the field or in a hospital.


Regular Member
The issue with the article is that it's only looking at civilian application and not military use. While there are a few instances where they could be useful in a LE environment, some sort of blood type id is necessary in a combat environment. Ruling them out completely as gimmicks because they don't fit into the author's need doesn't mean they don't have their place in other people's world.
This is actually very relevant. There are civ services that are able to administer blood in the field, however, the author is correct in the statement that you're getting O-.

I won't comment on the military side since I'm pretty sure the point of the write-up was more oriented towards civilians that train here at home for whatever scenario. I personally agree with the author.
9. Civ EMS will not give ABX in the field, or treat hypovolemic shock using anything other than colloids or crystalloids – for trauma.
This is changing in some locales. My area is running a new program that has advanced care paramedics making house calls for some medical procedures (like catheters, sutures, etc) and has an expanded drug box that includes ABX. Treatments on scene (the PT's house) are coordinated with a physician, but we are giving ABX in the field. The goal is to keep more people out of the hospital and from re-admitting after being discharged.

The goal is to improve and expand this program to include more procedures/medications in the future. I think we'll see a field practitioner's scope expand even more.