Medical alert jewelry is something we’re all familiar with. Most commonly, it’s a med alert bracelet or necklace (quite possibly of the dog-tag variety) that contains crucial information about the user's health. This is the sort of information that could save that person’s life when they are unable to communicate in an emergency.
There are other ways to communicate this information including medical tattoos, engraved cell phone cases, sticky ID tags (suitable for a phone case, briefcase, or any hard and flat surface), anklets, and metal shoe tags that work with shoes that close with either Velcro or laces.
However, there is another choice that has been gaining popularity: the medical alert ring.
What Is A Medical Alert Ring?
Medical alert rings, designed for both men and women, are ostensibly intended for the same purpose as the medical ID bracelets and necklaces: to alert first responders to the wearer’s specific, possibly life-threatening condition when the wearer is incapable of speaking for themselves.
The information engraved on the ring should name the condition as well as provide treatment instructions – what medications and dosages or other procedures that are recommended or prohibited. The user's doctor can supply the pertinent data.
The masculine version of these rings tends to be substantial, even chunky, with a large, potentially eye-catching red cross symbol accompanied by engraved text listing information relevant to the wearer’s health. Women’s, and unisex, rings are much more varied in style.
Traditional medical alert jewelry companies have, by and large, declined to get into this market. Anyone interested will discover that Etsy has by far the largest selection of medical alert rings with prices ranging from $9 to $60. Etsy’s women’s and unisex rings range from fairly large (including a pure aluminum ring that wraps around the upper part of the finger and can be engraved both inside and out) down to rings that are tiny and discreet, serving a purpose other than the practical.
We contacted three manufacturers of traditional medical alert jewelry including American Medical ID, Lauren’s Hope, and N-styleid to ask if any of them would soon be offering rings. Apart from engraving rings for nurses and other medical staff, the answer from each was a firm “No.”
Each representative spoken to said that their company relies on feedback from Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and the EMTs are not being instructed to look for anything more exotic than the necklace or bracelet. The N-styleid representative stated it most clearly: “We go through our local EMTs, and they won’t look for a ring. We get requests for medical alert earrings, rings, and anklets, but we simply say no.”
Who Needs A Medical Alert Ring?
There are two reasons for getting a medical alert ring, both of which are personal rather than simply practical.
- As an aesthetically pleasing and highly individualized way of announcing that the wearer embraces this part of themselves. It is one way to state that, yes, this condition is a part of who they are, while implying that it is only a small part. The tiny rings (delicately engraved with a medical symbol or the name of the condition) may not make a big, obvious statement, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be noticed.
- Raising awareness of – in the hopes of dispelling the fear of – conditions like diabetes, food allergies, organ transplants, autism, fibromyalgia, and epilepsy, to name a few. The attractive engraved bands (some with gems) are purchased by those who have a serious condition as well as by those who want to show support for a loved one or a cause. If someone compliments them on their ring, this could be the opportunity to get into an illuminating conversation.
What Information Should Be Included On Medical Alert Jewelry?
As stated earlier, your doctor can help you decide what information will be most helpful to you and a first-responder. There is general agreement, though, that less is better. The last thing you want to do is confuse the people attempting to help you.
Just as fundamental is that the engraving be deep enough and in as large and readable a font as possible. This is yet another reason for keeping the amount of health information to a minimum.
A delay due to a poorly engraved or worn-out ID, or an ID that’s too small, too ornamental, or with too much information on it could be deadly.
Pros and Cons of Medical Alert Rings
Pros of medical alert rings:
- Empowerment on a personal level. Owning your health issue(s) rather than having them own you.
- Showing support for loved ones or others who experience a given condition.
- Helping others to become more familiar with a given condition while encouraging questions and conversation.
Cons of medical alert rings:
- The most significant: medical professionals aren't always looking for a medical alert ring.
- Additionally, rings – besides being unexpected – may also fall off, shift position, or be defaced, rendering them useless.
- If relying on the ring alone, the patient could delay the needed medical care, perhaps resulting in loss of life.
- Some of the rings available on Etsy allow for engraving on both the inside and outside of the band. If EMTs are not educated to look for a ring in the first place, it’s hardly likely that data engraved on the inside of the band will be noticed by them, even if the ring itself is.
- If the ring is being worn in sympathy for a loved one or for a cause, the presence of a medical alert ring could confuse the medical staff, resulting in a mistaken diagnosis and treatment that might result in death.
Are Medical Alert Rings Worth It?
While there may be benefits in taking advantage of the varied forms of medical alert ID available, a traditional medical alert system should always be worn.
Though a medical alert ring is of little value in a crisis, if worn responsibly, it could have positive effects, on both the person wearing it and those around them who take note of it.
In addition to the proper medical alert ID, healthcare professionals strongly urge anyone with a life-threatening condition to carry a medical alert card in their wallet, backpack, purse, and briefcase. EMTs are trained to look for these cards.