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February 5, 2011 11:26 AM   Subscribe

What should I put on my medic alert bracelet?

So I got me some diabetes recently. So I also got me a medic alert bracelet. (At a local jeweler -- FYI for those who have asked previous questions about where to get a cute one.)

I had it engraved to say, "insulin dependent diabetic". Since then, a) I'm second guessing my choice, and think I should have put "type 1 diabetic", and b) I've also been diagnosed with Hashimoto's, and am on thyroid hormone (levothyroxine).

Should I redo it? EMTs, would the phrase "insulin dependent diabetic" make you think I was a type 2 on insulin? Or does it not matter? Do I need to note the Hashimoto's? Unlike insulin/diabetes, neither the condition nor the drug is likely to make me keel over, but if I get hit by a car and rushed to the hospital, I guess maybe both pieces of info are necessary?
posted by kestrel251 to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You are fine the way you have it. (Former Firefighter/EMT) The reference to diabetes is sufficient for field work. The hospital will do blood work independent of anything they read on your bracelet and will attempt to contact your doctor for a medical history if you are unable to give one.
posted by Old Geezer at 11:31 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the UK we have a medical service we can call up and they'd totally answer this for us. Do you have something similar where you live? What I mean to say is, if there's a public health advisory service, they'd be best placed to tell you what is the "standard" wording for your condition(s) that will be instantly recognised and understood by medical professionals.
posted by dougrayrankin at 12:04 PM on February 5, 2011

It's not a big deal, but it would be accurate to have type I diabetic AND to include something about thyroid. Although emergency problems from thyroid are rarer, they are real (e.g. thyroid storm) and useful for a doctor to know about initially.
posted by kevinsp8 at 12:06 PM on February 5, 2011

Think not about what you can add, but what you can no longer take away.
Hashimoto's: On levothyroxine
Diabetes: On Insulin
MD: 212-555-1234

This is more or less the form that my Medicalert tag uses. It is terse and clear.
posted by plinth at 12:13 PM on February 5, 2011

On a related note, this is pretty cool:
posted by argonauta at 12:31 PM on February 5, 2011

It is neat, argonauta, but I think it would be better to have something on your person rather than a keychain tag. (I know the ICEDOT on that site can be attached to your clothes.) Anecdotally, I read that an EMT is trained to look for a neck tag, would most likely find a wrist tag, but forget the anklet or shoe tags, they'd never deliberately look there unless something required it (like a broken ankle.) If one gets separated from one's keys, it would be useless.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:08 PM on February 5, 2011

Is it an actual Medic Alert bracelet? By that I mean, do you have the service that goes with it? If so you will have your medical info on their file so when they are contacted by emergency responders the full information is available.

IANA EMT, but "Insulin-dependent diabetic" is sufficient, IMO. It really doesn't matter if you're Type 1 or Type 2, if you need insulin, you need insulin. And, going solely on my own experience, the thyroid thing will make you feel completely awful if you're either too high or two low on the levothyroxine, but if you're in treatment for it, I really doubt it would ever present as something life-threatening.
posted by eldiem at 5:46 PM on February 5, 2011

I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I wish you the best of luck, and me-mail me if you'd like any reading suggestions. As to your question, my wife's medical alert bracelet says "insulin-dependent diabetic," just like yours. She is Type 1. If you are non-responsive, "diabetic" will convey that you could have very high blood glucose & thus might need treatment for that. It will also convey that you should not be put on any IVs which contain sugar (say, saline + dextrose, which is not uncommon).

Meanwhile, "insulin-dependent" will convey that you could have very low blood glucose, and thus might need treatment for that. Either way, the bracelet should prompt a medical professional to test your blood sugar if you are non-responsive, and avoid any types of treatment likely to harm you (such as the aforementioned IV drip).

As you may know, some Type 2's take insulin (I have a friend who does), even though many do not. Still, I think whether Type 1 or 2, if you take insulin, the caption on your bracelet will tell medical personnel what to do (and what not to do).
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:44 PM on February 5, 2011

And needless to say, I am not any kind of medical professional, nor does this constitute medical advice. I can only speak from personal experience. Fortunately, we've never been in a situation where the bracelet was needed. That's not to say we (or more accurately, I) haven't ever needed to call the paramedics - I have, but fortunately I've always been there to convey the needed information. So while I think the bracelet is fine, I can't attest to having "seen it in action," as it were.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:47 PM on February 5, 2011

As a nurse, I would say that "insulin dependent diabetic" gives emergency personnel all the info they need. They will know you have a tendency to have out-of-whack blood sugars, and that you could be either too high or too low in an emergency situation. Type I vs. type II is less important, because the distinction is unlikely to change the tests and interventions they use. If you want to save space but still get the type in there, you could put "insulin-dependent DM Type I" -- DM is well-recognized in healthcare circumstances as diabetes mellitus, and with the insulin note there would be no question of what you mean.

I think it would be good to add the Hashimoto's and levothyroxine if you can.
posted by vytae at 9:29 PM on February 5, 2011

EMT here. Bracelets are much better than necklaces. We're guaranteed to take a pulse at least once and will typically assess all extremities for circulation and responsiveness. Necklaces could easily be mistaken for non-medical jewelry or just overlooked.

The wording sounds fine, I would add the Hashimoto's if only for the hospital personnel, EMS is unlikely to do anything about it.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:17 PM on February 5, 2011

In case you ever have a need for a non-cute bracelet (if you'd like to wear a more sporty one while exercising, for example), I highly recommend Road ID. There's enough room for emergency phone numbers and any medications or allergies. I got one for my T1D daughter and the quality was so excellent, my husband and I ended up getting them for ourselves as well.
posted by shannonm at 8:32 AM on February 6, 2011

I have a necklace saying "diabetes on insulin" though fortunately it has never been put to the test. I did have some hesitation at first because my fear is that a nonmedical person might think that if I'm unconscious and diabetic then I must need my medicine -- ie insulin. When in fact because I'm tightly controlled it is almost certainly going to be the case that I need glucose. But then I decided I was overthinking it.

Sorry to have to welcome you to the type 1 club. Feel free to memail me if you have any other questions about type 1, pumping, or exercise, which I have some knowledge about.
posted by chinston at 3:16 PM on February 6, 2011

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