Guide to Medical Alert Bracelets
(And Other Medical ID Jewelry)
More than 95 percent of emergency medical responders look for a medical ID; more than 75 percent check for a medical ID immediately upon assessing a patient. Should you be wearing one?
A medical ID provides information that could save your life in an emergency. With medical conditions, drug and food allergies, prescribed medicines and emergency contacts engraved onto its surface, a medical ID bracelet or necklace guides paramedics and doctors in giving you appropriate, timely treatment when you are unable to communicate. Image above: VNOX Men’s Medical ID Bracelet with Free Engraving.
Why Wear a Medical ID?
In an emergency, when you might be unable to speak for yourself, a medical ID bracelet or necklace protects you by speaking for you.
Lack of information can be dangerous –
- Symptoms of common ailments can be misdiagnosed easily.
- Prompt diagnosis critical to effective treatment may be delayed.
- Half of all medical errors occur because of mistakes made upon admission to or discharge from the hospital according to a study conducted in the US.
Paramedics Look for Medical ID
According to a recent U.S. survey of emergency medical professionals, including EMTs and paramedics –
- More that 95 percent of repondents look for a medical ID during emergencies.
- More that 75 percent look for a medical ID immediately upon assessing a patient.
- 95 percent look at the patient’s wrist to find a medical ID and 68 percent look for an ID on the patient’s neck.
This is what the paramedics will (and won’t do):
• First they feel around both wrists for a medical bracelet
• If no bracelet, they look around your neck
• Last place they look is around your ankles
• They’ll read all information on both sides of the tag
• They’re especially concerned about blood thinners
• They don’t have time to make phone calls
• They’re reluctant to go into wallets without police observers
Doctors and Healthcare Organizations Recommend Medical IDs
Doctors and healthcare organizations throughout the world recommend medical IDs. The following organizations are only a few who have formally recommended the wearing of medical IDs.
- Alzheimer’s Association
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
- American Diabetes Association
- American Heart Association
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Columbia University Medical Center
- Epilepsy Foundation
- Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Mayo Clinic
- National Institutes of Health
- The Merck Manual
- The National Association of EMS Educators
- World Health Organization
Examples of Medical Conditions That Warrant Wearing a Medical ID:
- Abnormal ECG/EKG
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bleeding disorder
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Diabetes (insulin dependent)
- Diabetes (non-insulin dependent)
- Hearing impairment
- Heart valve replacement
- Hemolytic anemia
- Malignant hyperthermia
- Mental retardation
- Myasthenia gravis
- Pacemaker or ICD implant
- Renal failure
- Seizure disorder
- Sickle cell disease
- Situs inversus
- Visual impairment
Listing Medication on Your Medical ID
As a rule and if space permits it is wise to list prescription medicines taken on a long-term or maintenance basis. This will give medical personnel better guidance for initiating treatment and will lessen the chance of a drug interaction.
Some classes of medicines that are appropriate for an ID are:
- Analgesics: including many narcotics
- Cardiac medicines: including ones for angina or atrial fibrillation
- Anticoagulants: Blood Thinners
- Anticonvulsants: for seizure disorders (Epilepsy)
- Antihistamines, Decongestants: prescription or over-the-counter medicines for allergies
- Antihypertensives: blood pressure medicines
- Beta Blockers: drugs that can slow the heart rate
- Chemotherapy agents: medicines for treating cancer or serious infectious diseases
Listing Your Allergies
Allergic reactions to drugs, foods and insects can cause serious medical problems. A medical ID informs medics of an allergy, allowing for rapid response to a serious allergic reaction.
Allergens are numerous. Some common examples include:
- Analgesics: aspirin
- Antibiotics: cephalosporins, erythromycins
- Foods: nuts, wheat, dairy products, soy
- Other: horse serum, insect stings, latex, x-ray dye
Other Information You Can Add on Your Medical ID
With space permitting, anything can be engraved on your medical ID,including:
- Advance directive
- Living will
- Blood type
- Contact lenses
- Difficult intubation
- Emergency contacts (next of kin, doctor, etc.)
- Implant (e.g., pacemaker)
- Organ donor
- Transplanted organ
- See wallet card
Tips For Engraving Your Medical ID
Start With Your Doctor
To begin with, ask your doctor to explain your illness so you understand what to say and how to abbreviate your conditions and medications, as well as what critical issues need to be listed, and in what order of importance.
List only medical conditions that should be known in an emergency. For example, a minor surgery that took place several years ago may no longer be relevant to your medical care.
Organize Your Medical Information
Each medical ID style allows a different amount of information to be engraved. If you know you will need a lot of information engraved, select a style that can accommodate this, such as our two-sided IDs. You can also engrave “See wallet card” and list more information there than can fit on your ID. You should list frequently changing medicines only on a wallet card.
Summarize your information with short, descriptive words. Any information that will not fit on your medical ID bracelet or necklace can be written on a wallet or handbag ID card.
Only medicines taken on a long-term basis should be engraved on a medical ID. You may wish to list the most important medicines first.
If you need help deciding what to engrave, you can always ask your doctor or pharmacist.
What to List on Your Medical ID (And How to List It)
Remember that first responders and doctors are trained to know the shorthand abbreviations.
Use “ON” and “NO”
Paramedics and doctors need to know quickly if you are taking meds, or can’t take them. That’s why “ON” tells them that you must take a medication that is critical to your health. For example: ON COUMADIN.
On the other hand, the word “NO” tells them that you’re allergic to specific meds, foods or even anaphylactic. For example: NO MORPHINE or NO SHELLFISH.
Make sure you tell them if you’re taking or can’t take meds to avoid any confusion.
Blood thinners are usually best to be listed on the top since you could be bleeding internally due to trauma: ON XARELTO, ON PLAVIX, ON COUMADIN or ON BLOOD THINNER.
List all allergies to medications, foods and anything else that might cause an emergency, or what needs to be said to get you through a crisis such as NO NUTS, NO PCN, NO MORPHINE, NO BEES-USE EPIPEN.
Diabetes patients need to communicate DIABETIC 2-MEDS, DM1-INSULIN DEP, DM1-INSULIN PUMP, etc. Diabetes orgs. recommend using Arabic numbers and not Roman numerals to avoid confusion.
No MRI for most pacemakers, defibrillators and stimulators: NO MRI: PACEMAKER, NO MRI: ICD (implantable cardiac defibrillator). List ferrous metal implants such as plates, pins, cerebral & heart aneurysm clips, screws, stents and meshes: NO MRI: PIN L-LEG, NO MRI: PLATE-HEAD, NO MRI: BRAIN CLIP.
Alzheimer’s or Dementia can be described as FORGETFUL, MEMORY LOSS, or ALZ.
Artificial Knees, Hips & Spine Injuries—specify where located: R-KNEE: TKR (total knee replacement), L-HIP: THR (total hip replacement), SPINE MESH-SCI (spinal cord injury).
Lymphedema patients cannot have blood pressure taken or needle punctures such as R-ARM: NO BP/IV, NO NEEDLES/LABS.
Artificial heart valves & heart conditions: List CHF (chronic heart failure) or CABG (coronary artery bypass graft).
Bariatric Bypass Surgery: Tell not to insert a blind gastric tube to avoid stomach punctures such as: GASTRIC BYPASS, NO BLIND NGT.
Transplant Patients need to specify the type of transplant and anti-rejection meds such as heart, kidney or lung transplants: KIDNEY TX, HEART TX, ON CELLCEPT, ON PROGRAF.
Allergies to Med Classes: NO OPIOIDS, NO SULFA, NO CILLINS, NO MYCINS.
Space is At A Premium on a Medical ID
Be sure to shorten the information. For example, instead of saying “TAKING PENICILLIN”, you can say ON PCN. And it’s too long to say “DIABETIC TYPE 2 TAKING INSULIN” when you could say DM2-INSULIN or DIABETIC 2-INSULIN.
And medical conditions don’t have to be long to be clear to medical people.
“KIDNEY TRANSPLANT” can be written as KIDNEY TX. “ATRIAL FIBRILLATION” is AFIB. “AORTIC VALVE REPLACEMENT” is AVR.
Listing Emergency Phone Numbers
Emergency phone numbers are stated as “ICE” which stands for “In Case of Emergency”. This would precede the number: ICE 888-234-5678.
It’s best to have a cell number of a family member or close friend who knows your medical issues. However, don’t count on any phone number to be called by paramedics or doctors as they are usually too busy saving your life, so make sure all critical information is stated on your ID Tag.
Should You Engrave Your Name?
Engraving your name on your medical ID is a matter of personal preference. However, listing at least a first name is recommended. In an emergency, EMRs and doctors will say a person’s name in an effort to get his or her attention if the person is, for example, in a daze, a diabetic coma or unconscious.
Alzheimer’s patients should include his or her name and address or the address of a caregiver or family member.
Please visit Lauren’s Hope Medical ID Jewelry. It’s more than a piece of jewelry. It’s peace of mind.
Why Other Medical Information Sources Aren’t as Good as Medical ID’s
Your Wallet and Cell Phone
Lost wallets and broken phones may prevent retrieving your medical information in emergencies such as car accidents. Just because you have a medical card in your wallet does not guarantee that your wallet will be found or searched.
Even your cell phone may be broken or lost in the weeds. That’s why you can only count on a medical ID that’s securely attached.
Cellular Rescue Services
Cellular Rescue Services with buttons or fall detection are great for people at severe risk, but may not be enough in every medical emergency. Pressing a button and having your fall detected gets medical services to you quickly. However, once the emergency people get there, will they be completely informed about your pre-existing conditions?
Paramedics are usually too busy to make phone calls if that’s required. And, if the service can speak through the speaker, the information must be given quickly without delay otherwise they can’t wait.
What if you’re in a no-service cell zone—where is the information then?
Always having a medical ID bracelet is usually the quickest, surest way to convey your pre-existing conditions, your allergies, and what meds you are taking—right there on the spot—when every second counts! It only makes common sense to protect yourself in every way possible—a cellular service and a bracelet!
Medical USB’s and QR Codes
98% of medical USB’s and QR Codes are useless in America. In a middle of an emergency, paramedics, hospitals and doctors have no time to access the equipment needed to read personal USB’s and QR Codes on medical bracelets. As a matter of policy, most hospitals and first responders are forbidden to insert any private media into official computers for fear of viruses.
Also in emergencies, USB’s take too much time to load and read. Most paramedics are not allowed to use their personal or hospital phones to read QR codes because of policy and HIPAA compliance. In most cases, there are “no universal standards” and scanners to permit reading these codes.
Also, be aware that most QR codes require a cellular connection to the internet to retrieve your medical information. Mountains, valleys and heavily forested areas can block this service. At this time, there is no nationwide Federal hospital standards to coordinate and read these devices. If you intend to use one of these devices or codes, make sure your area hospitals and EMT’s can read and accept your data before investing in this technology.
800-Number Medical Data Services
Any service providing important medical information is helpful. However, paramedics are usually too busy saving lives and unfortunately have no time to make calls to any phone service. Doctors in emergency rooms are also too busy to call. It’s only when an unconscious person comes out of the ER when nurses usually call for more information. Having a number for a medical data service on your ID tag can help—after the emergency is over!
It’s always better to have all “critical information” firmly attached to you.
Medical IDs are not just for emergencies. They can forestall problems eliminating trips to hospital, reducing unnecessary hospital admissions and preventing minor emergencies from becoming major ones. Medical IDs save time and trouble as well as lives!
Thanks for visiting and reading …
I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas. I welcome your comments below.
Please visit Lauren’s Hope Medical ID Jewelry.
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