Your Medical Alert: Jewelry, Wallet Cards, Tattoos?

Type 1 diabetes medical alert bracelets
Type 1 diabetes medical alert bracelets

____ Happens!  You can’t prevent every bad thing from happening in life.  Even if you follow all seven healthy behaviors for diabetes (healthy eating, monitoring, physical activity, risk reduction, healthy coping, problem solving and taking medication all the time) it doesn’t guarantee you a free ride.  It is likely that at some point in life, something is going to go wrong and you will need medical assistance.

And when you are in an emergency situation you may not be completely clear headed. If you are alone and unresponsive due to a hypoglycemic reaction, emergency workers may not know you have diabetes.  Carrying identification indicating that you have diabetes can make a world of difference in getting the aid you need in a timely manner.

It becomes much more crucial if you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 and take insulin.  You should also seriously consider carrying diabetes identification if you are elderly, have a poor appetite and take sulfonuyreas. If you have hypoglycemic unawareness, the need to carry identification reaches critical mass.

Hypoglycemic episodes can mimic intoxication or other medical emergencies.  When your blood glucose is low, you need a source of quick-acting sugar to bring it up as soon as possible.  You don’t want medical personnel wasting time trying to figure out what is wrong when they can use that time to give you needed glucose.

Today you have choices; an engraved bracelet or a necklace identifying you as having diabetes is one way to go. These don’t have to be chintz looking.  There are many styles available and many materials to choose from, including metals, leather, plastic and rubber. You can even combine medical alerts with time keeping; yes, there are watches that include a medical alert notification in their faces.  No longer do you have to feel as though you are wearing military dog tags.

If jewelry isn’t your style, there are plenty of wallet cards available. Carrying a wallet card is discreet but still effective.  If you aren’t conscious, someone is going to start looking on your person for identification.

Kim Southwick's diabetes alert tattoos

Finally, you can get a bit more intimate with your choice of diabetes identification and get a tattoo or a possibly a medically implantable under-the-skin identification device. Tattoos have the advantage of being always available; unlike jewelry or a wallet-card, they aren’t going to get lost.  Tattoo parlors vary in their degree of sanitation, however.  If you decide to get a medical tattoo, it is important to use a licensed practitioner and check out their procedures. You also want to keep your blood glucose under good control during the procedure. And remember, once it is there, it is pretty much permanent.

As for the medically implantable devices, these operate by supplying a code when scanned that can open your medical records.  The only FDA approved device, the Verichip®, a small radio frequency identification device was pulled from the market in 2010.  But the technology is there and other devices may come to market giving you another choice for quickly identifying that you have diabetes.

So if you carrying around vials or pens of insulin, maybe it’s time to think about a bit of diabetes identification.  In a medical emergency, knowledge triumphs privacy every time.

1 Comment

  1. Is it vital to change my current Medicalert from type 2 non-insulin to type 2 insulin? I ask because this would be a major expense for me (truthfully any thing over $1. is an issue on $700 a month). I wear a bracelet all the time and have had to argue to not have it removed for surgery. Seems like the hospital personel should be one place that would not be in favor of removing it and possibly loosing it. Opinions? I may consider a tattoo; can’t loose that or have it ignored given it would be the only one, ever.

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