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From Martinsville, Indiana, USA:

My daughter really doesn't like to wear medical jewelry. Is it likely that emergency personnel will recognize a medical alert bracelet that is very pretty and beaded and looks like regular jewelry except for the one bead that has the medical alert symbol on it? Isn't it more likely that they will see an insulin pump attached to her body by tubing and recognize my daughter's medical condition? Have there been any studies about this?


I think your point is well taken and it is an issue that I discuss with my patients repeatedly.

I am not an emergency provider/EMT/paramedic and have not had the opportunity to discuss this issue with such a professional in a while. But, these people are trained to look for medical identification, typically, necklaces and bracelets; they can eventually look in a wallet also. I agree that a subtle identification can be overlooked and, thus, obfuscates the purpose of the identification. I think some medical identification is better than none.

Intuitively, you would think an insulin pump would be obvious. However, it could be overlooked initially as a cell phone or pager; rarely do people receive other medications via a subcutaneous route.

Make a compromise and encourage her to wear medical identification. Can you get to the root of the issue? Is she unhappy "advertising" that she is a diabetic? Has she just not found anything pretty enough? You can spend some serious dough on something expensive, but I wouldn't. Some would advocate for a tattoo!


Additional comments from Dr. Stuart Brink:

They will see the pump if they examine her belly region, but may or may not know what it is. If the medical identification jewelry is too much like jewelry, then you are correct and it may be missed. The actual bracelet part can as fancy as one likes but the actual medical identification "tag" or "identification" should stand out for such emergency use. Nobody's ever tested this out but this makes sense.


Additional comments from Jane Seley, diabetes nurse specialist:

That's a tough question. The more a medical ID bracelet or necklace looks like real jewelry, the less likely emergency personnel will recognize it as such. An insulin pump helps identify that a person has diabetes (maybe), but pumps can be worn with other medication. Can your daughter keep a medical ID card in the case of her pump? That would help. In addition, the medical identification tells a lot more than that the person wearing it has diabetes and can save valuable time in caring for a critically ill person.


Additional comments from Dr. Andrea Scaramuzza:

Adolescence is an hard period to deal with, and, when an adolescent has a chronic disease like type 1 diabetes, it is more difficult. I think she could carry a little card that says she has type 1 diabetes. When she gets older, she may change her mind, but I don't recommend forcing a child to do something she does not want to do.


[Editor's comment: I recommend you contact your local Fire Department/Paramedics about this. You might need to show them what the beaded bracelet looks like and find out if they see it as jewelry or if they'd look at it more closely in an emergency. Like your daughter, mine would not wear identification either. Now that she is able to drive, the rule says that she wears an ID bracelet or she doesn't get to drive.

Although Dr. Brink refers to an examination of the belly region to identify the pump, it is also possible that the pump identification will be missed if the infusion set is not on the abdomen. BH]

Original posting 14 Jun 2004
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:58
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