Medical Alert Bracelet, Should I Get One?


Last week I was in Boston for the first time in over 20 years and as I do everywhere I go, I woke up early and went for a run. It was cold and I dressed in a few layers, covering my pump and supplies.

I headed out at 6:00 a.m. for an 11 mile run excited to see some of one of America’s prettier cities. I was told to go down to the Charles River so I did. I thought it would be simple enough to get there but I took a wrong turn and needed to ask for directions (something guys hate to do). I saw someone coming out of a building dressed to run so I asked him for help.

“Follow me,” he said. “I’m heading down there”.

 I did, and after a few minutes I was on a great running path.

“How far down are you going?” he asked me once we crossed the bridge and reached the path. 

“I need to run 5 miles and then come back” I said.

“That sounds good,” he said.

But I told him I needed to stop for a few minutes to check my blood sugar.

“Go ahead. I’ll catch up,” I said. I checked my blood sugar and had a gel. Then I started to run alone. 

Being alone, in a strange place, I started to think about what would happen if something happened to me. I was in a place I don’t know and where no one knows me. What if my blood sugar dropped while I was running and I passed out? Would someone realize I’m diabetic? Would they see my pump and know what it is?

That wasn’t the first time these thoughts have come into my head. I remember how happy I was when I saw that there was a place on the back of the bib (number) to write medical info at the Rotterdam Marathon. I often think I should get a runner ID or a medial alert bracelet. But then, when I get home from a run and everything is fine, I don’t.

RoadID - Cool Medical Alert Bracelet

Then… yesterday I woke up to a new Glu question of the day:

Do you wear a medical alert bracelet or piece of identification? 


Seeing the question made me think about it in a serious way. What’s holding me back, why haven’t I ordered a runner ID that says “Type 1 Diabetes” on it? 

I know I have mixed feelings about the medical alert bracelets but a runner ID, that’s kind of cool.

To check myself out I asked Jess what she thought. 

“You should have one,” she said.

“Really?” I said quite surprised.

“Yes. It’s a good idea.”

So why do I have mixed feeling about medical alert bracelets?

Is it just because I don’t wear jewelry, except for my wedding ring?  Or is it more than that?

I remember as a kid, I would stare at medical alert bracelets, wondering what was wrong with the person wearing it. I remember seeing kids I knew had diabetes with medical alert bracelets and feeling bad for them.

The problem with the medical alert bracelets is that they do exactly what they’re supposed to do, announce to everyone that there is something wrong you, that you have diabetes.  

But I’m not ashamed of my diabetes. I don’t hide my pump, I check my blood sugar in public and I talk about it regularly and openly.

So maybe Jess is right. Maybe a medical alert bracelet is a good idea. Maybe it’s time to get over it and get myself some diabetic bling, or at least a runner ID.

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Debi Henson
Debi Henson
10 years ago

I’ve had a Medic Alert bracelet since 1988. Although I’ve never been unconscious and alone, I consider it the cheapest life insurance policy ever!  Because Medic Alert has a 24/7/365 phone number on the emblem, EMTs and ERs can get all the pertinent information about you with one phone call. It can also list your medical condition(s): diabetes t1, allergies, heart murmur,  etc. so you aren’t treated like a drunk or drug addict (it’s happened). If you have loved ones, they deserve the peace of mind and so do you!  Be sure it’s Medic Alert and not some wannabe company,… Read more »

Rob Woolfson
10 years ago

I forgot to mention that in the mean time considering I am really dragging my feet on the medic alert I have a sticker on my bike frame that says that I have type 1 diabetes and my wife’s number in case of emergencies.

I also entertained the idea of getting a medic alert tattoo, that’s a good way to “own” it as opposed to it being a burden.  Despite it being against my religion to get a tattoo I wonder if it would come under the category of ‘pikuach nefesh’  (the obligation to save a life in jeopardy)

Rob Woolfson
10 years ago

Pretty much the same thoughts that I have.  I don’t wear jewelry, not even a wedding ring, so a necklace or bracelet seems weird to me.  I also think about what would happen when I am out cycling and then forget about it when I am home.  Though my wife regularly reminds me that I should get one.

Now that I have joined a cycling club I feel more safe.  The people in my group know where I keep my Glucagen Hypokit and hopefully how to use it.  Even so my trainer still wants me to get a medic alert.  

10 years ago

Get one! But get one that makes you feel good to wear it, like the runner band you pictured. I have a bracelet from My Flying Star (which looks like it’s out of business, alas) and it doesn’t feel to medic-alerty to me. I believe I once spoke to an EMT to ask about these alternative forms of medical identification and it seemed that the important thing is to have it in a predictable spot that EMTs are trained to look at, and to have it look sufficiently medical to get their attention. But I think unless you’re announcing your… Read more »

Scott K. Johnson
10 years ago

I wear my medical alert stuff religiously.  Both a bracelet AND a necklace, in fact.  After seeing many news stories about people with low blood sugars being mistaken for acting under the influence of something (drink, drugs) and getting beaten up or tazed, I don’t want that to happen to me.  

Unfortunately, if I’m low and acting combative, the jewelry is not much use.  Are they going to read it while dodging punches?  I don’t know what the best solution is for something like this, but until there’s something better, I’ll continue to wear my stuff. 

10 years ago

I have never worn a medical ID bracelet or necklace either, in the 15 years since I was diagnosed. I got a roadID (same style as pictured) last year for cycling, since especially with cycling you can end up a lot further from home without help. I like that it’s a lot less medic-looking, but still provides information that I have Type 1 and an insulin pump. It’s quite comfortable to wear, unlike a metal bracelet, so I hardly notice it’s on. That is worth quite a bit!

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