let’s face it, engaging in vampirism is not the safest thing one can do, neither for the donor or the vampire. that does not mean that it is extremely dangerous either, it’s certainly more safe than climbing everest, and probably safer than parachuting too. and let’s not forget about all the little dangers which are hiding all around us, ranging from the obvious like traffic to the much less obvious like bees. while we shouldn’t all start freaking out and panicking about how incredibly dangerous vampirism is, we should be aware of the risks involved and how to deal with them.

while i think that most of my readers are at least somewhat knowledgeable about vampirism and associated risks i think that it’s not a bad idea to at least put something out there as a reminder. i also plan to (eventually, when i get round to it – if i ever do) link to and review some of the more widely circulating texts about safety.

perhaps the most obvious risks are associated with sanguinarian vampires and donors, and fall into two groups. the first is injury to the donor, the second is transmittable diseases.

the risk of injury varies with the bloodletting method. using lancets it pretty safe, they are made to be used regularly and without much training. lancets will however only deliver minimal amounts of blood; newer models even less than older models. any form of cutting is dangerous, you might nick a vein or damage a nerve because you’re overexcited, and if the blade slips you could get a serious injury. there is also, as with any open wound, a risk of infection. the amount of blood gained from cutting varies enormously, from a few drops to just about as much as you could dream of (and more; this is potentially deadly). some vampires use hypodermic needles for bloodletting, which leaves relatively few marks on the donor (unless you get a hematoma) but which shouldn’t be done without some form of training. hypodermic needles allow for significant amounts of blood to be taken/given, and the amount can be quite well controlled.

how do you reduce or mitigate these risks? the first and simplest would be to not feed/donate. the next would be to switch to a safer method, i.e. use lancets instead of blades. i am personally unsure about the risk advantage of needles compared to cutting, but if you’re going for larger amounts of blood they are probably safer than cutting.

a very efficient method to reduce risk is to learn the human anatomy; learn where veins, nerves and tendons are close to the surface of the skin, and don’t cut there. learn proper sanitation, how to keep your blades and needles clean and how to clean and dress the wound afterwards, what products you need, and how to use them; knowing proper sanitation reduces risk and mitigates risk if something does happen. take a first aid course, so that you know how to stop the bleeding if it gets out of hand, what to do if one of you goes into shock, and how to give the other the best chance of survival until help arrives. know who to call if something goes wrong (and what you will tell them). knowing first aid doesn’t reduce the risk of an accident happening, but it can reduce the consequences.

transmittable diseases – blood-born or carried in the saliva – are a real risk for both vampire and donor. remember, vampires are just as vulnerable to diseases as the rest of us. being a vampire does not make you resistant to anything. if you’re a donor and your vampire starts spouting stuff like that, get out, your vampire is dangerous to you. remember, whether you’re a donor or a vampire, you can catch anything the other has, and you can pass anything that you have to the other. you do not want your donation to be poison for your vampire, you do not want to thank your donor by giving them a disease.

we have the obvious candidates, hiv and the various hepatitis virii can be stealthy, you might not know that the other is infected, indeed they might not know themselves. and though hiv can be treated now, nobody has yet found a way to cure it. there are also many other pathogens which can be transmitted by blood, and there are some real nasty bacteria which live in saliva and which can be deadly if they enter your bloodstream.

the first step to reduce the risk posed by pathogens is to test yourself, and to insist that your vampire/donor get tested too. if you give blood to the red cross or such they will run a whole gamut of tests for free, but you might need to ask them for results and i’ve heard of people who didn’t get their results. otherwise there’s sexual health clinics, and many lgbt organisations provide discrete health services. an advantage of lgbt places is that they will often be familiar with uncommon practises; when i went to get my first tests, i told the doctor quite explicitly what we were going to do, and we worked out what tests to do starting from there. tests should include hiv, the various hepatitis virii, and the usual std’s.

if you’re a little nervous about getting your blood-tests, go with your vampire/donor. seeing a couple come in together (whether you’re a couple otherwise or not isn’t really pertinent) always makes people smile. you could even get tested at the same time; think of it as a bonding experience, you are making sure that you are safe for your partner. get tested regularly, depending on your promiscuity (both sexually and/or as a vampire/donor) that could be anything from twice a year to monthly.

if you do exchange blood with somebody who’s health-status you are unsure of, there is a treatment which, if administrated within 72 hours, can prevent hiv from establishing itself in your body. most cities/hospitals will have emergency centres where this treatment can be had. be aware that it is very harsh on your body and is not an excuse to fool around.

i mentioned bacteria in saliva earlier, which brings me to an important point: most people are aware that the vampire risks getting infections which the donor is carrying, but the risk is just as large if not larger for the donor. when the vampire drinks your blood, it passes through the mouth, gullet, stomach, all of which are made to handle massive loads of nasty bacteria and virii. unless the vampire has an open wound in their mouth (a sore, a micro-cut from eating chips, damaged gums from excessive brushing or similar – such wounds are very common) they are relatively safe. as a donor you will have open wounds, a perfect entry-point for pathogens. if the vampire feeds directly from you, if they lick or suck at the wound, anything which is in their saliva can easily enter your bloodstream. which is why your vampire needs to get tested too.

the obvious solution to reduce the risk of infection for the donor is by avoiding direct contact between the vampire’s mouth and the donor’s wound. hypodermic needles with syringes or plastic tubes attached can be useful for this. if you do allow the vampire to feed directly from you, the vampire ought to, shortly before feeding, thoroughly rinse their mouth with mouthwash (but not brush, because that creates micro-cuts).

talking about reducing mouth-to-wound contact, i want to mention biting/being bitten. i would usually advise against allowing your vampire to bite you to draw blood. it is not a very efficient method of bloodletting, human teeth are not designed for that. it is much more painful than other methods. it leaves large scars. it carries the highest risk of infection for the donor, as the vampire’s teeth will be lodging pathogens deep within the wound. of course i understand that people do use biting, and i can definitely see the attraction in it. but you need to be aware that you’re using possibly the most risky method for the donor. as a donor, are you willing to accept that risk? as a vampire, do you really want to subject your donor to that risk.

there’s a whole slew of other risks which i will talk about here when i have time. they include legal risks, cults and cult-like organisations, abusive relationships, and more. but i’ll post this as it is for now.

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