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Diabetes Medical Alert Bracelets: What To Engrave on Yours

Posted on November 29, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Robert Hurd, M.D.
Article written by
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN

Some people living with diabetes wonder whether they should wear medical alert jewelry, a form of ID that can be worn at all times. This type of jewelry provides the people around you with essential medical information in case of an emergency. It can be particularly helpful if you’re ever unable to communicate with others about your condition or where you keep your medication.

Members of DiabetesTeam have shared troubling moments when they experienced medical emergencies. One member said, “My sugar dropped to 20 today. My boyfriend said I was unresponsive. He called my parents and 911. It was scary.” Another said, “A friend was having low nighttime blood sugars of 34 to 60. His wife found him unresponsive in bed and rushed him to the emergency room. His blood sugar was way too low.”

Fortunately, in these examples, a familiar person or relative was nearby to get help. But medical emergencies can happen even when you’re out among strangers or driving alone in your car, and that’s where having jewelry outlining your condition may be helpful.

What Is Medical Alert Jewelry?

Medical alert ID jewelry comes in a variety of forms, but people often choose bracelets or necklaces. By having information about your condition engraved directly on the jewelry, you can improve your independence and peace of mind when living with diabetes or other medical conditions.

If you’re unresponsive or need immediate medical attention, your medical alert jewelry will help others identify you and guide them in responding appropriately to the situation. Here are some of the reasons to consider getting a medical alert bracelet and how you can ensure it displays the right information when you need it.

Benefits of Medical Alert Jewelry

Medical alert jewelry can be particularly helpful for people with diabetes. Even individuals with well-controlled diabetes may experience an episode of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), or diabetic ketoacidosis (excess blood acids) that leaves them unable to communicate, seek help, or think clearly. Sometimes these symptoms can be mistaken for alcohol intoxication, which can cause misunderstanding with law enforcement officers or others who don’t know you. If a sudden change in blood sugar causes you to fall or crash your car, a medical alert bracelet can inform first responders of your condition. In turn, they can provide prompt and proper care.

In addition, people with diabetes have a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart disease that can lead to stroke or heart attack. Wearing a medical alert ID bracelet that makes others aware of your diabetes will help guide treatment decisions to prevent further complications. It will also give first responders information about who you are and provide the phone number of people to contact on your behalf (such as family members or your health care provider).

When a health emergency strikes, time is of the essence — especially for someone with diabetes who may require blood sugar monitoring and timed medications. Medical alert jewelry comes ready to wear, and compared to a medical alert device, there’s no need to replace the battery or get service. Once you make a habit of wearing it, you can feel better about venturing out and exploring new places.

Members of DiabetesTeam encourage others to take the time to set up some form of medical ID. “It can speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself,” one member wrote. “I wear a ‘dog tag style’ ID that lists my type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and anaphylaxis to tree nuts. If you end up in an ambulance, unconscious, without your wallet/purse/other identification, your alert bracelet/necklace/charm will tell that first responder that you have underlying conditions to be considered, which could affect what they initially treat you with. Do yourself a favor and spend a couple of bucks and get one.”

Types of Wearable Medical Alerts and Other Options

The growing popularity of medical alert jewelry means more people — especially medical personnel — are trained to check for one in the case of an emergency. But bracelets and necklaces aren’t the only option for a medical alert ID. You can also wear a pin or carry a wallet card with your information. These products are designed with the internationally recognized Star of Life (snake and staff) medical symbol. Whatever style or design you prefer, be sure to wear it at all times, even when you are asleep.

In addition to wearing a piece of medical alert jewelry, you can download a medical ID app on your smartphone to store basic information and your medical records, including care plans and medications. Other devices (like key fobs or wristbands) have near-field communication capabilities, which can provide medical professionals quick and secure access to your medical history. You can also wear an audio medical ID on your clothing that tells others what to do if you can’t speak for yourself.

The American Diabetes Association website has a free card you can print out that lists the symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, along with emergency treatment for both. The organization advises people with diabetes to fill it out and keep it in their wallet or car. You can add custom engraving on your medical alert bracelet, directing others to look in your wallet or glove compartment for more information.

For a more permanent option, some people opt for medical alert tattoos. Talk to your doctor to see if this is a safe option for you. Tattoos may present additional risks of infection for people with diabetes, but you might be a good candidate after taking certain precautions.

How To Customize Your Medical Alert Jewelry

Medical alert jewelry should be clear and easy to read. Although it’s tempting to find something that suits your personal style, you must include enough information to guide others when you’re in danger. A bracelet that’s too decorative may be overlooked as costume jewelry rather than a form of identification.

Medical alert bracelets can be as simple as a charm bracelet with the medical symbol and the words “I have diabetes” clearly engraved. You can provide additional information, such as your full name and emergency contact information, and whether you’re insulin-dependent. However, avoid including your address, Social Security number, or other private information that’s not necessary for medical attention.

Choose a type of material that’s comfortable and fits your lifestyle. For instance, some people prefer medical alert bracelets that are made of stainless steel or precious metals, while others choose fabric, elastic, leather, rubber, or silicone. A medical ID bracelet should be waterproof and the right size for your wrist so you’ll be more likely to wear it throughout the day, rather than removing it when doing things like bathing or washing dishes.

Talk With Others Who Understand

DiabetesTeam is the social network for people with diabetes and their loved ones. On DiabetesTeam, more than 126,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with diabetes.

Have you considered getting a medical alert bracelet for diabetes? What designs are you interested in, and what would you like your medical alert jewelry to say? Share your comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

American Medical ID is proud to celebrate over 25 years of serving the chronic health community by offering personalized, custom-engraved medical ID jewelry. In an emergency, the jewelry allows medics or other medical professionals to give prompt, precise treatment. Leading physicians, pharmacists, educators, and hospitals endorse American Medical ID jewelry for people living with a chronic condition.

    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
    Robert Hurd, M.D. is a professor of endocrinology and health care ethics at Xavier University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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