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Are Medical IDs Useful in Emergencies? And Other Questions About Medical IDs

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In an emergency, communicating details of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies may be hindered by the severity of an injury you have sustained. First responders may have found you in an unresponsive or confused state.  A medical ID is a simple and effective way to communicate vital information to paramedics or EMTs. Medical IDs can speak for you in emergency situations where you could feel distressed, confused, or become unconscious, incapacitated, and unable to advocate for your own health.

Much like wearing a watch to tell the time, not wearing your medical ID when you know you have medical conditions, medications or allergies that others should know about can have serious consequences. An emergency can strike at any time, at any place, and you may not have loved ones around you to help. A medical ID fills this void, ensuring that you can live a peaceful life on your own freedom, while at the same time being protected with the knowledge you are wearing something that identifies you and your underlying conditions.

It is crucial to wear a medical ID right after receiving a diagnosis for any chronic disease or illness. Not wearing a medical ID can lead to:

  • Misdiagnosis of symptoms

  • Delaying appropriate treatment & care

  • Exposure to medications & treatment that you may be allergic to, contraindicated for your current medications, or are harmful for your health condition

  • Complicate or increased severity of minor emergencies

  • Unnecessary hospital admissions

  • For people living with mental health conditions, not wearing a medical ID can risk miscommunication with responders, including law enforcement

Getting a medical ID for the first time after a diagnosis
 can feel overwhelming and raise so many questions. While this is normal for many, these concerns should not undermine the importance of wearing one at all times. With more and more modern design twists on medical IDs, including an ID to add to your cellphone, any stigma of wearing an ID is a thing of the past.

Life Stories from Medical ID Wearers

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Every year, American Medical ID asks customers of how their medical IDs help them live their life with more peace of mind. According to Amanda Fones, “Having medical ID jewelry was a necessity for my life and became crucial to myself and my family.” As someone with a connective tissue disorder, Amanda loves the security and peace of mind that her medical ID necklace provides.

Another medical ID wearer, Jonathon Kelly recalls how a medical ID alleviated his fears after undergoing a splenectomy. "I was immediately reassured there was a way I could tell people about my condition in an easy visual way. It definitely helped take away some of that fear I felt in the early days and is a reassurance to me that if I am ever ill in the future, I know that I will receive the right treatment.”

Do you want to hear more from American Medical ID customers? Read more medical ID life stories here.

Here are a few of the top medical ID questions we at American Medical ID get asked and answers to help:

Are emergency services aware of medical IDs?

According to Verywell Health, a common place that paramedics usually check for medical information is on a person's body.  Other places include the fridge and front door (if the emergency happened at home), your wallet or purse, and increasingly common is to check a person’s cellphone.

In a survey conducted by American Medical ID, more than 95 percent of respondents look for a medical ID during emergencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognize medical alert identification bracelets and necklaces as basic Personal Health Preparedness Needs to protect health and safety in an emergency. A properly trained emergency responder should notice medical alert jewelry around the neck or wrist. Depending on their training, this could be noticed during their assessment when a patient is physically examined from head to toe.


What kind of medical ID is the most recognizable to EMTs and paramedics?

A medical ID worn around the wrist or neck is recommended. Most emergency responders are trained to look for medical identification worn as a necklace or bracelet. They are easier to find when responders perform a physical assessment in an emergency.


Photo credit: @type1chloe


Back-up IDs such as wallet cards or phone medical IDs are also good to have in case you forget to wear your medical ID jewelry or if it gets lost or separated from your person.


What is relevant to put on an emergency id?

Your medical ID should include your name, medical conditions, allergies, and medications. Also engrave other information that can impact the way that EMTs should treat you in an emergency. An example is if you have a medical device such as a pacemaker, missing organ, or if you have a DNR request.


Photo credit: @the.insulin.type


It is also advisable to include emergency contacts such as a parent, family member, friend, or doctor that responders can easily reach out to. Here is a complete guide on what to engrave on an emergency medical ID bracelet or necklace.

Medical alert jewelry is the most effective when it reflects accurate, comprehensive, and up to date information about your health. Verify it regularly and ask your doctor for advice.


How often do people ask you about your medical alert bracelet?

Medical IDs come in lots of different styles. Depending on your preference, a medical ID can look like regular piece of jewelry to be discreet. For example, they can be customized to have an embossed medical emblem instead of the more common red color or have the engraving on the back of the ID where it isn’t immediately viewable. The frequency of being asked about a medical ID can easily be the same as how much you'd be asked if it were ordinary jewelry. IDs can and should be a reflection of your personality and style preference so that you always wear it.

Some medical ID wearers use their ID to start a healthy conversation and raise awareness of their medical conditions. For this, some will prefer engraving on the front of the ID with the red medical emblem so that it is easily recognizable by everyone, not just by emergency responders.

Read our guide on how to choose the best medical ID for you.


Should I get a medical tattoo vs. jewelry?

According to Rod Brouhard, an EMT-Paramedic and author of "Disaster Preparedness: A Living Free Guide", medical jewelry is quite popular and a good idea if you have any sort of medical diagnosis that is important for emergency personnel to know about. However, tattoos are something that medical personnel may not notice or interpret accurately, especially if you have multiple tattoos.


Photo credits: @_thatgirlrach


Some patients have both a tattoo and ID on them but if you have to choose, remember that medical jewelry is easier to update and EMTs are trained to look for them. Outdated medical information can be as dangerous as not having a medical ID, if not more so.


I can't decide between a medical ID that is more fashionable vs. one that is more generic and obvious?

The best medical ID for you is the one that you will actually wear all the time. It is important to consider your personal style and comfort when choosing a medical ID. All American Medical IDs have the Star of Life symbol that represents emergency medical services. This symbol is found easily on the front of each medical ID regardless of their style or color.

Having peace of mind is one of the most valuable benefits of wearing a medical ID. If you are still concerned that a stylish ID will not be recognized in an emergency, it is a good idea to choose a more classic looking medical ID with a bigger tag and a red emblem. If you have a lot of medical conditions or complicated medications, it’s generally advisable to opt for a medical ID with the most engraving space.