A medical ID bracelet is more than just jewelry: it could save your life. But a medical ID bracelet is only as useful as the information you put on it. So it’s essential to know what you should (and shouldn’t) engrave on your medical ID bracelet.
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Whether you’re researching the topic of medical IDs for yourself or to help a loved one, you’ll find the information you need, below. We’ll outline the key items you should always include on a medical ID bracelet, as well as some you might want to consider based on your specific situation.
We’ll also let you know how to get a medical ID bracelet and when you should think about getting one for yourself.
Items to Put or Engrave on Your Medical ID Bracelet
Just wearing a medical ID bracelet with your name on it isn’t enough to help a first responder understand your medical needs. People with all sorts of illnesses, allergies, and other conditions wear medical alert and ID bracelets, and there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Each bracelet must be engraved individually to provide the most accurate information.
One of the challenges with engraving the necessary information on a medical ID bracelet is the limited space available. Luckily, you can find larger ID bracelets that accommodate more lines of text. And you can find useful abbreviations for common medical conditions, allergies, and other things you might want to include. We will include those abbreviations, which most medical providers will understand, below.
If you’re customizing a medical ID bracelet, make sure it includes all of the following information:
1. Your name
Your name isn’t the only thing you need to put on a medical ID bracelet, but it is one of the most important things. If you’re incapacitated for any reason and can’t give your name, your bracelet can do that for you. This is extremely important in making sure a hospital finds and enters your medical records correctly. There might be data in your chart that alters how they decide to treat you in a particular situation.
When engraving your name, make sure it appears how it would appear in your medical records. That means using your full first name, middle initial, and full last name. Don’t use a shortened version of your first name or a nickname. If your entire name won’t fit, use your first two initials and last name, or your first name and last initial.
Some people choose to engrave their first name on the front of the bracelet as a decorative aspect. Others prefer to keep all of their information on the back of their medical ID bracelet. Either option is fine, as long as you include your first and last name somewhere on the bracelet.
2. Your birthday
Another key piece of identifying information is your birthday. This is important because someone else might have the same name as you, which can get confusing for hospital staff. It’s less likely to happen if you include your middle initial, but it’s always best to be safe and provide any data responders might need to provide the most accurate care.
To save space on your medical ID bracelet, inscribe your birthday in a numerical format. For example, June 6, 1975 would be 6-6-75. Always inscribe your birthday on the back of a medical ID bracelet to preserve your privacy.
3. Your medical conditions
Next, you should include any medical conditions that might affect the type of treatment you need at a hospital or in an emergency situation. Examples include diabetes, bleeding disorders, and epilepsy. You can write out the full name of your medical condition if there’s enough space, or you can use a medically recognized abbreviation.
Here are the abbreviations for just a few of the common medical conditions the might require a medical ID:
- Congestive heart failure - CHD
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - COPD
- Ehlers Danlos syndrome - EDS
- Generalized anxiety disorder - GAD
- Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus - IDDM
- Hearing-impaired - HI
- High blood pressure - HBP
- Multiple sclerosis - MS
- Post-traumatic stress disorder - PTSD
- Rheumatoid arthritis - RA
- Type 1 or type 2 diabetes - T1D/T2D
If you have a medical condition not listed here, search for it online or ask your doctor about the best, medically-recognized acronym to use.
4. Your allergies
You should also engrave any allergies you have on your medical ID bracelet. This includes allergies to certain foods (like strawberries or nuts), insects, and medications, and metals. This is more information that medical responders can use to ensure you get the proper care.
Like medical conditions, certain medications have useful abbreviations and acronyms. Here’s an example of how you could engrave allergy information on your medical ID bracelet:
- Penicillin allergy - ALGY: PCN
6. Your medications
It’s also important to engrave any prescribed medications you take on a regular basis on your medical ID. Doing so could potentially prevent a drug interaction when you’re undergoing treatment or care.
You don’t necessarily need to engrave medications that you take on a short-term basis (like an antibiotic, for example). It’s more important to include medications that you take daily, long-term. Some examples include blood thinners, hormone medications, psychiatric medications, immunosuppressants, and corticosteroids.
6. Supplies you might have with you
If you carry any medical supplies with you on a regular basis that might help in an emergency situation, list that information on your medical ID bracelet.
An example would be if you carry an EpiPen with you in case you experience an anaphylactic shock due to an allergic reaction. This can save valuable time if a bystander happens to read your bracelet, and it can let medical personnel know exactly what medication to use.
7. Emergency contact information
Finally, we recommend adding an ICE (in case of emergency) phone number to your medical ID bracelet. This information is especially important for children and individuals with dementia or other cognitive impairments, but it can help anyone in an emergency situation.
Engrave the letters “ICE” on your medical ID bracelet to indicate what the phone number is for. You should choose a contact who has the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf, if possible. This person is known as a health care proxy.
If you don’t have a healthcare proxy, just include the phone number of someone you’d want there in case of an emergency. It could be your significant other, a member of your family, or a close friend. Make sure you let the person know that you’ve listed them as your emergency contact.
How Do You Get a Medical ID Bracelet?
Anyone can order a custom-engraved medical ID bracelet from a number of online retailers. You don’t have to have a prescription or a doctor’s permission to purchase and wear a medical ID bracelet. However, a prescription might help you get the cost of a medical ID bracelet covered by your health insurance.
The next time you visit your doctor, ask him or her about a prescription for a medical ID based on your medical condition. Your doctor will confirm or deny whether they feel an ID bracelet is medically necessary in your case. If they agree that it’s necessary, they’ll write you a prescription for the bracelet. You’ll submit this prescription, along with the appropriate filing form, to your health care plan for reimbursement.
Even if you don’t plan to submit your claim to insurance, you might want to ask your doctor what information he or she would recommend engraving on the jewelry.
Who should wear a medical ID bracelet?
As mentioned, anyone can wear a medical ID bracelet if it helps them feel safer and more secure. But it’s especially important to wear a medical ID bracelet if it could alter the course of emergency treatment in any way.
- If you’re on any medication that could interact with general anesthesia or pain relievers.
- If you have any medical conditions that put you at greater risk during medical procedures, including surgery and anesthesia.
- If you have any medical implants or conditions that make it unsafe for you to receive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- If you take any medications daily, which it would be dangerous for you to go without, such as insulin or seizure medication.
- If you’ve ever experienced a life-threatening allergic reaction to food, medications, or an insect bite.
How to choose a medical ID bracelet
A medical ID bracelet isn’t worth much if you never wear it. So when you’re shopping for ID bracelets, it’s important to pick one that you can see yourself wearing nearly 24/7. It should match other jewelry you wear regularly (like a wedding band), and it shouldn’t obstruct the movement of your arm and hand.
Most people choose stainless steel for their medical ID bracelets because it’s durable, and you can wear it in the shower or swimming. A leather bracelet with a stainless steel placard is another popular choice if you want something softer.
And keep in mind that the area available for engraving on your bracelet needs to be large enough for all of the information you want to include.
What’s the Benefit of a Medical ID Bracelet?
A medical ID bracelet is a small purchase with a potentially huge impact on your health. Medical professionals are trained to look for medical ID bracelets on incapacitated or unconscious patients.
And even many lay-people know that they should check a person’s wrist or neck for medical ID jewelry if there’s a medical emergency. Having that crucial information readily available to the people around you could just save your life. And a stylish medical ID bracelet can make a thoughtful gift, too.
So if you’re working on organizing your health information, including advanced planning, consider adding “order medical ID bracelets for myself and family members” to that to-do list.
- “About medical IDs.” American Medical ID. www.americanmedical-id.com/faq
- “Engraving tips: what to put on a medical ID bracelet or necklace.” Medical ID. www.americanmedical-id.com/help-with-engraving/
- Shiel, William C. Jr., MD, FACP, FACR. “Common medical abbreviations list (acronyms and definitions). Medicine Net. www.medicinenet.com/common_medical_abbreviations_and_terms/article.htm