Dear Dr. Roach: My question is about medical bracelets and necklaces. Ive never seen any recommendations as to what conditions would warrant wearing one nor what the inscription should say. When are they either necessary or beneficial? D.A.M.
Answer: Medical ID tags can be useful. They serve to alert medical personnel of potentially important medical conditions when someone is not capable of providing that information, whether due to temporary incapacity (such as being unconscious in a motor vehicle accident) or permanent disability (such as intellectual disability). In my opinion, the most appropriate use of these tags is when there is a potentially life-threatening medical condition that would not be obvious to emergency medical personnel. Some examples of these would include anaphylactic reaction to medications or latex; the presence of an illness that can cause temporary disability (epilepsy, diabetes, Addisons disease); and medical conditions that might affect use of some common treatments, such as bleeding disorders, organ transplant status and medical implants (such as implantable defibrillators). Personal and contact information is a natural set of complementary information to have on a medical tag.
Some newer tags include electronic information, but this is in its infancy. These include the use of near-field technology to let emergency personnel read the information (if they also have the technology); phone numbers the emergency personnel can call to get more information; and QR codes to allow emergency personnel with a smartphone to go to a webpage with more detailed information. Most smartphones also have the ability to store information that can be read in an emergency, even by someone without the persons phone password. I recommend taking advantage of this feature.