Help me pick out medical alert jewelry!
January 13, 2011 6:10 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to include in a medical alert bracelet/necklace/etc., and is there a best brand? I know there are some that have built-in communications systems and additional information available, but I am not clear what is a necessity for me. More info inside.

I recently was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome after I took a medication for epilepsy. My doctor tells me I can never have lamictal, naproxen sodium, aspirin, acetaminophen or sulfa drugs ever in the future, as my risk of a much more serious episode of SJS would be very high. Thus I need some form of medical alert. Because there are so many items I cannot have, I am not sure if they will all fit on a single bracelet, so I am thinking about the dog tag style? However I need something discreet and professional (I am an attorney). I've looked at the past questions on this topic and it seems that there are a lot of different options. I've been looking at these, many of which are attractive, but my biggest priority is medical protection.

It seems from previous questions that some people state that the MedicAlert bracelet, which comes with a membership in an emergency response service, is the way to go.

Thoughts? I am a little overwhelmed by this process as I am not much of a jewelry person (albeit female). I am very frightened by the potential of having this disease again as I understand that on recurrence it is often fatal. I've been very lucky so far.

I don't want to spend more that 50 or so dollars. Also, does it make a difference whether it is a bracelet or a necklace? A necklace might be preferable for discretion.

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a serious medical condition, discretion is the last thing you want IMHO. An emergency medical tech is probably going to check your pulse first, i.e. your wrist. IMNYEMT, but I was once a first responder. The quicker they can get the info to a doctor back at the hospital (i.e. even if it just says "Stevens-Johnson Syndrome"), the better.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 6:23 PM on January 13, 2011

I have a MedicAlert bracelet.

I am a never-ever-ever-wears-jewelry (unless you count a watch or, obviously, the MedicAlert bracelet) female. I have the plainest of all the bracelets (I used to have the standard one with the red writing, but there's some sort of weird enamel on it that started to wear off after about a year of use...and then it broke) and have worn it 100% of the time for the last five years. It really doesn't get in the way as much as you think it would. The only time I notice it, really, is when I'm kneading dough, because it leaves little imprints. (And yes, I make sure to clean the bracelet just as well as my hands.)

As far as what info to put on it, mine has my condition and the most important piece of information about it, which is not to hyperextend my neck (in the event that I'm unconscious and need to be intubated). It also has my MedicAlert ID number and the 1800# to call, so that the rest of my medical information can be obtained in emergency situations.

For yours, I think having "Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. Severe drug allergies, confirm before medicating" would be sufficient, as they could then contact MedicAlert to find out exactly what you can and cannot have. When you place an order for your bracelet it'll show you exactly how many characters you can use; it might take some creative spacing, but you should be able to get about that much on there.

I've never had to use the service, thankfully, but I feel much safer knowing that the crucial information is available should something terrible happen. So I'd definitely consider MedicAlert if I were you.

And as far as discretion goes, the bracelet is easy to tuck under a watchband if you should feel so inclined. For what it's worth, I don't try at all to hide mine and I've only had one person (other than close friends and family) ask me what was up with the bracelet. And she was kind of a nosy bitch anyway. I think most people probably don't notice/care.

Feel free to memail me if you have any questions.
posted by phunniemee at 6:30 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get one with an associated service number that I (as a paramedic) can call. That way, you can write "Stevens-Johnson syndrome - multiple severe drug allergies" on the one side of whichever one you choose, and I can and will call them to find out what the drugs are.

Whichever one you pick should clearly look like a medical alert tag. This type would catch my attention. This type most certainly would not catch a second glance. In most cases, I recommend people getting both a necklace and a bracelet. You could probably get away with just a necklace. It is unlikely you would encounter any of those drugs on an ambulance in my part of the US--except for aspirin, which you would have to be conscious to take. The ER is another story, but they should notice a necklace.

Feel free to MeMail me with any questions.
posted by skyl1n3 at 6:36 PM on January 13, 2011

when i asked the overwhelming suggestion was bracelet and medic alert.
posted by nadawi at 6:38 PM on January 13, 2011

Get the medic-alert. First of all, they know what they are doing with the terminology. I have multiple allergies, including one which is caused by a genetic condition with a really long name, and they called me back after my order to confirm a few things and work out a wording that would both fit on the bracelet and give medical personnel the info they need. This is important to me because the big drug allergy is to an anesthetic and the need for them to know would not come up unless it was serious and I could not inform them myself.

Also, medic-alert has as part of your record emergency contact numbers so they can reach your family in case of an emergency.

Fwiw I had a paramedic tell me the bracelet is better than a necklace or watch because medical personnel are trained to look for it. And whenever I have had to take first aid training for my job, the trainer has always noticed and commented on it and pointed it out to my co-workers. It is a recognized symbol.
posted by JoannaC at 7:33 PM on January 13, 2011

I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that a paramedic is trained to look for a medic alert necklace, might/probably will catch a bracelet, and forget the ankle bracelet, he'll never look there.

The Road ID, while primarily meant for athletes, comes in bright colors and can fit 6 lines of text. Their dog tags also include medic alert symbols. You can buy the metal tags separately. They do have an optional Medic Alert-type contact service, but if you'd like to go with Medic Alert, perhaps you could combine one of these 6-line tags with a real Medic Alert tag.

My dad wears a dog-tag style ball chain necklace under his shirt. It's lasted him several years already.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:58 PM on January 13, 2011

I have a plain Medic Alert bracelet that I am used to wearing by now. To respond to IndigoRain's observation, before I had a Medic Alert, I had an episode of Anaphylaxis and the paramedics checked my neck and wrist for tags. I ordered the Medic Alert right after that.

They will call you when you place the order to confirm what should be written on it. For example, mine notes that I carry Epinephrine. I have been a member in Australia and UK, and have never considered going anywhere else. Medic Alert is what people know around the world.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:09 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a paramedic, and we're trained to look for medical-looking or alert-looking jewelry at the throat, wrists and ankles.

Most of us will also scan for significant-looking tattoos, and, if we have time, check your wallet for anything that looks like a READ THIS NOW card. If we have the time and ability, we may also check your phone for an ICE entry (In Case of Emergency), which most people have as *ICE (to make sure it shows up first in the addressbook).

Basically, the classic places for Medic Alert stuff are neck and wrists: if you have something that isn't a watch or a bracelet on your wrist, we're going to read it. Ditto anything around your neck that has writing on it. We're totally nosy like that.

As to what you should have on it: if you have the room, tell us what will kill you. Critical allergies, drug interactions, that kind of stuff: most especially any kind of thing that would affect your airway or your heart. If you take Viagra, we need to know in case you have a heart attack, so we don't give you nitroglycerine. If you have a latex allergy that makes your throat swell shut, we need to know so we don't kill you with our gloves. The Medic Alert people are very good at helping you narrow this stuff down, so that we're getting just the important, life-threatening data on the actual necklace, and can call them for the rest.

Speaking personally as someone who destroys jewelry on a routine basis, and can't wear anything on my wrists except a watch, I go with a Medic Alert necklace (I'm an insulin-dependent diabetic), and it's never been a noticeable pain in the ass.

About the only annoying thing about it is, uh, when you're involved in interpersonal festivities and it whacks either you or your partner in the teeth.


posted by scrump at 2:12 PM on February 27, 2011

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