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Should I wear a Medical Alert Bracelet?

When we think of medical alert jewelry, we tend to think of persons who might be in immediate danger from a food allergy, or even a low blood glucose episode. And these are great reasons for wearing medical alert jewelry. Yet, others might not consider it as important because they might not experience hypoglycemia, or because they are afraid of discrimination by potential employers, or businesses.

Wearing any type of ‘medical alert’ message is a very personal decision. We all come to this decision from a different perspective, and life experience. Through my years of having diabetes I have learned a few things:

  • A chronic illness is, in itself, a medical concern:  It doesn’t matter if it’s not immediately life threatening. ANY paramedic (or other emergency personnel) needs to know that you have a certain chronic illness before they can work on you. This may affect the many decisions of how they approach to treat our medical emergency – and may lead to unintended harm or complication.
  • Hospitals won’t necessarily have our ‘shared records’: And even if they were to receive our records, the fastest way for medical personnel to know that we have a chronic health condition is through a medical alert bracelet or other jewelry. Emergency personnel may not necessarily have the time to spend waiting on medical records, or trying to reach our medical team by phone. On top of that, regulations restricting the privacy of our health information, such as HIPPA, still stand and may delay how soon our information is disclosed.
  • Employers are not allowed to discriminate based on chronic illness: This is a tough one. The job market can be a challenging place – and I have been there myself. I was discriminated against by a very well-known non-profit agency. My response to this is that no matter how much we are hurting for a job, we DON’T want to work for anyone who won’t honor us and respect us as employees. While it is our right, under the law, to not have to disclose any chronic illness at the time of interview, any place that is less than understanding about our having diabetes is, eventually, not going to be a safe place to work. They are more than likely not going to take diabetes management seriously, or diabetes accommodations and emergencies seriously. I took this to heart with my last experience – and now diabetes advocacy is prominent on my resume. As a result, I have wonderful and understanding employers that trust my judgment to mind my own chronic health condition.
  • Paramedics have little time – they are trained to look for alert jewelry, not tattoos: Many folks become frustrated by losing alert bracelets, or other jewelry, and instead consider the permanence of a diabetes alert tattoo. The problem is there is no standard alert tattoo – many of these are indistinguishable from any other form of art, especially if one is in a hurry to treat an unconscious patient. A paramedic doesn’t have any time to examine an entire body for an alert tattoo, or to dwell on interpreting the chosen tattoo of the patient.

Expense is generally a concern for many individuals, but there are options for all budgets. Some medical alert bracelets are just silicone bracelets, while some are beautiful jewelry with paid subscriptions that contact emergency personnel for the patient, in case of an emergency. Still, other bracelets come with USB adaptors that contain medical information. Whatever the personal preference, medical alert jewelry is a precaution every person with diabetes ought to seriously consider.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.