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Medical Alert Bracelets and RA: Do You Need Alert Jewelry?

Posted on June 29, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Article written by
Sarah Winfrey

Some people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) wonder whether they should wear medical alert bracelets and other medical ID jewelry. They want to know if alert jewelry could be helpful in a potential medical emergencies, especially if you are newly diagnosed with RA.

So, what exactly is medical ID jewelry? Is wearing a medical alert bracelet right for you? Read on to learn more and decide whether you or your loved one with RA should start wearing medical jewelry for safety and peace of mind.

What Is Medical Alert Jewelry?

Medical alert jewelry is any piece of jewelry that you wear to convey medical information to others. Often necklaces or bracelets, this jewelry is engraved with your relevant medical information, including the presence of any chronic conditions like RA.

This jewelry is designed to inform others of any health conditions you may have in case of a medical emergency. For instance, if you want people who are assisting you during a medical emergency to know you have RA, medical ID jewelry might be right for you. As one myRAteam member wrote, “It’s just a bracelet so paramedics and ER professionals know about me.”

What Are the Benefits of Wearing Medical Alert Jewelry?

Most people find a number of benefits from wearing medical alert jewelry.

Providing Peace of Mind

Wearing a medical bracelet can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that first responders will be able to get you the best possible care, no matter what happens. Emergency responders and other medical personnel are trained to look for these items when treating individuals so they know more about their existing medical conditions.

Equipping Health Care Providers With Essential Information

When medical personnel are trying to decide how to best care for you during a medical emergency, a medical alert bracelet can inform them as to what they need to consider first. It can also alert them of any medications you’re taking in case they’re concerned about interactions.

Making Travel Less Stressful

Many travelers take their medical alert jewelry on trips, even if they don’t wear these items all the time at home. This can ensure that they get the proper medical care no matter where they are.

Who Needs Medical Alert Jewelry?

Anyone who has a medical condition that could be life-threatening in a short period of time should consider wearing a medical ID bracelet or other jewelry. In addition, anyone who might find themselves in a situation where they can’t communicate their medical care needs, even in situations that aren’t life-threatening, may choose to wear one.

People taking medications that are essential to their survival or well-being or that may have significant interactions with other drugs should wear medical alert jewelry. People can include any other relevant health information on their jewelry, too, like allergic reactions, drug allergies, conditions like autism, and more.

Although RA is rarely immediately life-threatening, pain or fatigue may make it hard for a person to communicate their needs during an emergency. Moreover, people with RA may take several medications to treat their condition and manage their symptoms, which health care professionals may need to know about during a medical emergency.

Additionally, some people with RA may have specific medical situations that necessitate medical alert jewelry. One myRAteam member explained, “Due to the fact that I take methotrexate and have issues with low platelet counts, my doctor would like me to wear a medical alert bracelet and have a medical information card in my wallet.”

What Information Should Be on Medical Alert Jewelry?

People may choose different options for what to put on their medical alert jewelry. As one myRAteam member shared, “I wear a medical alert bracelet. Within my ID on it, I can list all my medications, medical issues, and contact information.”

At its most basic, the jewelry should include the person’s name and phone number (or the phone number of an emergency contact).

However, it can also contain the specific medical conditions a person has, such as a compromised immune system, and any medications they are taking. It may also include further guidance, like “Additional info in wallet,” so medical personnel know where to find the information they need.

Occasionally, people might add any special wishes that they have for their medical care to their medical alert ID jewelry. For instance, it may specify that the person does not want to be kept on life support.

There are a variety of medical abbreviations that people can choose from to communicate a lot of information in a small amount of space. They include abbreviations for specific conditions, such as CHD for “coronary heart disease,” ALGY for “allergy,” and BP for “blood pressure.”

What Options Are Available for Medical Alert Jewelry?

Most pieces of medical alert jewelry are bracelets or necklaces. They usually consist of a solid metal piece (often stainless steel) that can be engraved with the relevant information. There are also watch bands that allow for engraving, including bands for smartwatches.

These have a wide variety of different looks. Some may resemble other pieces of fashion jewelry you would wear. Most contain some sort of mark indicating the jewelry contains information that emergency personnel may need.

Occasionally, athletes or children might wear a silicone wristband with abbreviated information, like their name and an emergency contact phone number.

Other Options for Carrying Medical Alert Information

If you’re uncomfortable wearing medical alert jewelry, are allergic to metals or other components in most jewelry, or want to include more information than a necklace or bracelet would allow, there are other options for carrying medical information with you.

For instance, you can download a mobile phone app where you can record all of your medical information. You might also consider carrying a wallet card that holds more information than what will fit on a piece of jewelry.

Medical Alert Jewelry vs. Medical Alert Systems

Medical alert jewelry is considered a passive alert apparatus. It contains a person’s information but doesn’t broadcast it in any way. In other words, people have to look for it in order to find it.

Alternatively, some pieces of medical alert jewelry include active alert apparatuses. These are called medical alert systems. They often have a button or some sort of switch that makes a sound or plays a recording to alert people to a medical problem.

Even more extensive medical alert systems can be installed in vehicles or homes. In most cases, a person must activate these to send the message that they or a loved one needs medical attention.

In some cases, people with RA who live alone may choose one of these systems for their homes so they don’t have to worry about falling and being unable to get help. As one member explained, “I like to do things by myself and was looking into something that will track me and alert my friends and family in an emergency.”

Find Your Team Today

If you or a loved one is living with rheumatoid arthritis, consider joining myRAteam today. On the social network for people living with RA, you can share your story, ask questions, and engage in ongoing conversations with other members. Before long, you’ll have your own team of people who understand life with RA.

Are you living with RA and considering a medical alert bracelet? Share your questions or thoughts in the comments below or by posting on myRAteam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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