Blood-Type and NKA Patches: Worthwhile or “Tacticool”?

Several examples of blood-type patches shown.
January 31, 2023  
Categories: Gear Curious

Blood-type and NKA patches are a thing. You’ve probably seen them on someone’s range bag or boots at the range, and you’ve definitely seen them featured prominently on the kits of supposed Special Forces guys in movies. And while they make logical sense when there’s an actual combat situation, you might wonder if there’s any point in using them daily. We’re here to answer that, or at least to give our jaded opinion.

A No Known Allergies (NKA) infrared patch shown up close.

An infrared NKA patch made by BritKitUSA. (Photo credit: BritKitUSA)

What are NKA Patches?

An NKA patch informs the person looking at it that the wearer has No Known Allergies. It’s a somewhat broad way of communicating that you don’t have any allergies since it doesn’t mean you don’t actually have any. All it means is that you don’t know of any allergies.

Many of us write this on the paperwork at the doctor’s office, and we typically do it as a CYA. We’ve replied that we don’t have allergies we know of, which means we never technically said we don’t have any at all.

Note: These patches usually say “NKA,” but some companies produce them as “NKDA,” for “No Known Drug Allergies.”

Examples of blood type and allergy or NKA patch combinations shown in various styles and colors.

Blood patches made by Tactical Freaky. (Photo credit: Tactical Freaky)

What are Blood Type Patches?

This one’s a bit more obvious. Blood type patches declare your blood type to the world at large. They’re offered in many colors, sizes, fonts, and with or without whimsical, artistic flare. Not only are they made as patches but also as stickers, shoelace attachments, and keychains. If you can name it, then it probably exists.

Some companies make combination blood type and NKA patches so that you cover two topics with a single patch. There are also options to have notations added referencing “no morph” (morphine) or “no pen” (penicillin), among others.

Various blood type patches used for range gear.

Do you use blood-type patches on your range gear? (Photo credit: LOF Defense Systems)

Are NKA and Blood Type Patches Worth It?

Let’s put this into context and do it by patch. Generally speaking, NKA patches aren’t fantastically useful. Although they inform someone you don’t have any allergies you’re aware of, that’s all they do. These patches tend to be more useful when they inform of an actual sensitivity. That’s where the patches that say “no morph” or “no pen” come in handy. If you have a significant sensitivity or straight-up allergy to something common such as morphine, penicillin, or latex, it’s worth adding an alert to your clothing. Using an NKA patch is less vital than alerting others of an actual problem. If you don’t have any patches referencing allergies or NKA, they’ll assume you don’t have any.

Blood-type patches tend to be far more useful than NKA patches. After all, typing takes time, and universal donors can be hard to come by. If a medical team knows what you need at a glance, it can be the difference between life and death.

Now, if the question is whether this applies to daily life, the answer is that it depends. Generally, yes, blood-type patches are handy. If you’ve spent any time in the military or law enforcement, you’re aware of the prevalence of making sure your type is readily visible. That could mean patches, tags, or using a permanent marker to write it on your clothes or boots. It might make more sense in those scenarios than in your civilian lifestyle, but it’s still worth doing.

An example of a blood type patch worn on boots.

An example of a way to display blood type on boots. (Photo credit: Creatrill)

How should I display Blood Type?

When it comes to best-displaying blood type patches, it becomes a matter of how not to do it. For example, if you want a blood type plate or tag to attach to your boot laces, ask yourself: will I always wear the same pair of boots? Then ask yourself how likely is it that something could happen to rip the tag off or otherwise make it illegible. The fact is that where you put the tag matters.

Avoid placing blood-type patches in places where the following might happen:

  • It might be easily ripped off and lost on the ground during triage
  • It could be missed due to an odd location
  • It might be visible, but unclear if it is your type (for example, putting blood-type patches on range bags)
  • It might not be on your person that day because it’s attached to a specific piece of clothing or gear
A blood type patch shown on a rang e bag.

Your range bag might seem like a good spot for a blood-type patch, but will anyone realize it’s yours? (Photo credit: Maxpedition)

Avoid making the following objects the sole label of your blood type:

If at all possible, mark multiple objects with your blood type. That way, survival does not depend on your wearing one specific thing.

Close up blood patch for shoes shown up close.

An example of a good, basic blood type patch that can be laced to your sneakers or boots. (Photo credit: Mad City Outdoor Gear)

Are Patches Worthwhile or “Tacticool”?

Making blood type visible isn’t just for high-speed, low-drag hijinks. It’s useful for shooters training at the range, hunters chasing deer, and guys in force-on-force class. Many ranges ask students to list their blood type along with medical insurance and emergency contact on first-day paperwork, but not all do that. Most outfitters don’t do it, which is too bad considering the likelihood of an accident on a deer hunt.

It might be a bit of a cliche, but it’s true: if you’re training to make holes, you should also know how to plug them (carry a tourniquet). Similarly, you should be smart enough to supply a medical team with the details needed to save your life by filling you back up after a hole has been made, and blood type is high on that list. We could call this the punch, plug, replace, and repair method of being properly trained.

That doesn’t mean you need to sit down and painstakingly label every piece of clothing, boots, and gear you own, only that you should be aware of. Make sure it’s noted somewhere. You might think you’re unlikely to ever need it, but guess what? You’re not statistically very likely to ever need your daily carry gun either. And yet you make sure you’ve got that each day. Having a patch or tag declaring blood type or serious allergies on your body isn’t a bad idea at all. This one doesn’t fall under “tacticool”; it’s just using your brain.

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1 Comment

  1. Drew

    I still have boots labeled “O+” that I wear on range days. However, an ER doc friend/ training partner, told me, regardless of what type you have written/ patched/ or stickered, the ER is still going to type your blood before administering. Simply to help avoid that liability. They have no way of knowing if you borrowed the boots/ jacket/ body armor bearing the blood-type patch. Hospital, blood typing is apparently a pretty routine and swift process. I can see where it may make more sense on the battlefield where blood typing equipment may not be present.

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