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Medical-Identification Products

03 January 2007
Health care and emergency personnel encourage people with diabetes to wear some form of medical identification.

The reason is obvious: Such identification can save time in an emergency and may save your life. Medical identifications provide emergency personnel with important information that allows them to act quickly -- and in an emergency, every second counts.

Remember, too, that hypoglycaemia (an insulin reaction) often can be mistaken for drunkenness. Obviously, medical identifications that are easily seen can help in such situations.

Like all your other diabetes supplies, the type of medical identification you choose should be based on your personal situation. Key factors in the decision include age, form of identification, costs, and the services provided by the tag manufacturers.


Everyone with diabetes -- no matter how old or young -- should have a medical identification tag. This is particularly true for people who take insulin. The user's age comes into play when choosing the form of the identification. For example, 12-year-old Tommy could wear a neck chain and tag without problem -- but his 2-year-old brother, Timmy, would be at risk for strangulation. Many parents of toddlers\ have found that ankle bracelets work well, and then the parents carry a medical ID wallet card for the child as well.

Form of identification

Medical identifications take many forms: wrist or ankle bracelets, necklace pendants or neck chains with dog tags, watch charms, shoe tags, or wallet cards. Recently, clothing labels have entered the market. The key question to ask is: "Will I wear this particular form of identification all the time?" If you don't like necklaces, but always wear a watch, you may prefer a watch tag to a neck chain. Emergency personnel prefer medical identifications that are easy for them to find -- without having to undress the individual. A shoe tag on a child's or adult jogger's lace-up shoe is easily seen. An ankle bracelet under a grown man's sock is not. Necklaces, neck chains with pendants, and wrist bracelets are the first things emergency personnel look for, then watch charms and shoe tags. Most experts encourage people to wear one medical identification and keep a medical ID card in their wallets. Wallet cards are great back-ups, but not necessarily a good first-line defense, because you may be separated from your wallet in an emergency.

Several jewellery manufacturers are introducing all-silver or all-gold medical identification jewellery. Some people feel better about always wearing such quality items. However, a medical identification is meant to convey information in an emergency -- so it needs to be easily identified for what it is and not confused with regular jewellery.

It doesn't really matter what form you choose, or whether your medical identification is gold, silver, or plated. What is important is visibility and durability because medical IDs are meant to be worn all the time.

Service and cost.

No matter what the form, medical identifications carry at least three pieces of information -- your name, medical condition, and an emergency phone number for more information. However, some medical identifications carry the emergency number you choose, such as yours or your neighbour's, while others carry a number that is staffed by emergency personnel 24 hours a day with your medical records and emergency numbers at hand.

Questions to ask about the service rendered by your medical identification include:

  • How often can my ID be updated and at what cost?

  • How much information can be placed on the ID initially? (For example, if you have a child with diabetes and he or she spends half the week with your spouse in another city, can you get both emergency phone numbers on the tag?)

  • Who will answer the emergency phone number -- will it be a person with immediate access to your computerized medical records?

  • Special mention: Medic Alert is recognized worldwide as a medical identification service. Your tag is engraved with your medical condition, personal ID number, and Medic Alert's 24-hour toll-free number.

    When needed, your medical records, which are stored in a computer, are made available 24 hours a day, all around the world. Medic Alert is a charitable, non-profit organization, endorsed by approximately 100 health organizations.

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