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Written by Michele Wheat Last edited: 7/16/2017
In 1953, California 14-year-old Linda Collins went to the hospital to receive medical care for a cut to her finger while her parents were away on vacation. After undergoing a standard skin test for tetanus, she went into anaphylactic shock: She had an undiagnosed allergy to the tetanus antitoxin, and this nearly took her life. As a result, her parents began pinning notes to her jacket, warning potential first-responders of her allergy. From here, she came up with the idea of a metal medical alert bracelet, the first of its kind, and today, thousands of people wear these life-saving identifiers every day.
The medical alert bracelet, also known as a medical ID bracelet or a medical wristband, is a small band worn on the wrist that is engraved with crucial medical information. Modern medical ID tags are also found in the form of necklaces, dog tags, ID cards, and even tattoos. Often, the included information notes medical conditions, allergies, or advance directives that the person may not be able to communicate in an emergency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year, as many as 119 million people in the United States face emergency situations that require medical assistance, and many of these people are either unconscious or unresponsive when first-responders arrive, leaving them incapable of conveying information that can be critical to an accurate diagnosis.
A medical ID bracelet can be an essential medical device for anyone. People who suffer from serious allergies to food, medications, or insect bites can include this information on their ID bracelet to inform first-responders in case of an allergic reaction or to prevent medical personnel from administering medication that could make their condition worse. These bracelets can also be beneficial for children with severe allergies or medical conditions during times when their parents are not immediately available, such as at school or while visiting friends and relatives.
Those with potentially life-threatening medical conditions should include this information on a medical alert bracelet to help with their diagnosis during an emergency. Patients with Alzheimer's disease or other memory impairments have the option to include personal information and emergency contact information in case they are unable to remember or convey this information when needed. A person may also choose to include advance medical directives, such as a do-not-resuscitate order.
With so much information that can be included on a medical ID bracelet, it's important to have an efficient way to decipher the necessary information. Color codes are a useful way to organize the information on a person's medical wristband. Standard color codes have been established in hospitals and help to communicate information effectively and efficiently. In a hospital setting, a person wearing a red bracelet is likely to have a notable allergy; a person with a specific allergy to latex notes this with a green band. Advance directives such as a do-not-resuscitate order are noted with a purple band. These color codes do not always translate to people wearing medical alert bracelets outside hospital settings.
At times, abbreviations can also be useful, especially since many medical ID bracelets offer limited space for text. For instance, "ALGY" notes a specific allergy, "DNR" is used to communicate a do-not-resuscitate order, and "T1D" or "T2D" can indicate diabetes. "ICE" can be used to label the phone number of someone who should be contacted in an emergency.
Medical ID bracelets can be useful for those with a variety of different medical conditions, including:
A person should include any vital medical information on a medical ID bracelet. Start with your name, then note your specific allergies and/or medical conditions. Include at least one emergency contact number. You may also want to include any other information that could affect your treatment in an emergency, such as whether you use an insulin pump or carry an EpiPen. Also include advance directives such as "DNR" if you have any.
Medical alert bracelets come in many forms, including bracelets as well as dogs tags and other necklaces. Modern variations even include medical ID bracelets that contain a QR code to be scanned by a smart device to link to the person's medical information. People also may choose to include various colors to help specify allergies, medical conditions, or advance directives. Modern medical IDs can be stylish, or they can even take the form of tattoos. The important thing is that you choose a style that you'll wear consistently.
For more information regarding medical alert bracelets and who should consider wearing them, consult the following: