No one really wants to be labeled as "different." And certainly, no one wants to create that label and apply it to him or herself. But many medical conditions require some form of identification indicating that such a condition exists and must be considered in the case of an emergency. Thus, millions of people with hundreds of medical conditions must advertise that fact simply to protect themselves. For many, jewelry is the chosen medium.
Fact: Up to 15% of the population of the United States could experience a life-threatening reaction to foods, drugs, insect bites or latex.
Fact: Many diabetics suffering from hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) have been mistakenly identified as being drunk.
Fact: Over 400 Americans die annually from an allergic reaction to penicillin.
Given these and many more related statistics, the need for proper medical identification is critical. But in an image conscious society, clunky bracelets or dog tags may offend the fashion sensibilities of some while the overt labeling of medical conditions may be threatening to others. That is why manufacturers of medical jewelry are looking for a balance between the necessity of clear communications and a desire for attractive accessorizing.
It would be easy to hide identification for a medical condition in a wallet or handbag but in an emergency a visible and obvious message will assist medical personnel to make fast and accurate assessments. Jewelry, by its nature, is an adornment designed to flatter and draw attention to its wearer. A 10KT or 14KT gold or sterling silver charm, pendant or locket that also spotlights medical data can be quite attractive while helping to avert a tragedy.
Teens can be especially sensitive to their appearance and to the opinions of other teens. They can also be more apt to take risks because of these concerns. A young diabetic or epileptic may be willing to compromise their safety by avoiding the use of identification, even in the form of attractive jewelry, if they feel it makes them look "un-cool." There are some jewelry pieces however that can gain the proper attention, if necessary, without appearing "dorky."
Delicate ankle bracelets with a dangling charm or a small engraved plate are very acceptable jewelry accessories for teen girls. Lovely beaded bracelets are also fun, decorative and fashionable and will complement any style rather than compete. Boys can also accessorize discretely with a sports wristband band or handsome watchband. These pieces can be as simple or elegant as the wearer wants and many manufacturers produce medical jewelry with a keen eye on fashion and style trends.
No one should be embarrassed or ashamed because they have a particular condition. That doesn't mean that they should be forced to broadcast that condition to the world by wearing identification that is unattractive and obvious. Medical personnel are trained to look for medical I.D. and jewelry, no matter how discreet, will be one of the first places they will look for medical info. Anyone with medical issues has a responsibility to themselves and to their family to provide the information that will protect them if they are unable to properly communicate. But they can still look sharp at the same time!
About the author: J. Terrence McDermott is administrator and webmaster for Prevamedic.com a site featuring recommendations and resources for those seeking information about medical identification jewelry and devices.