Medical Alert Tattoos - A Good Idea?

Medical alert bracelets have become the go-to solution for ensuring emergency responders are aware of any chronic medical issues a patient may have. However, there’s always the concern of medical jewelry being forgotten or breaking off. With this in mind, people have been considering a new alternative that can't possibly be left behind.


Medical tattoos appear to be a viable solution to medical jewelry’s shortcomings. They can’t be forgotten or left behind. They don’t break off or wear out. Because they’re permanent, people with them have one less worry when it comes to their chronic condition. It makes the possibility of forgetting a necklace, bracelet, or ID card a thing of the past, allowing peace of mind.


Do the benefits outweigh potential pitfalls? For starters, emergency responders aren’t trained to find medical tattoos – but they are trained to look for traditional jewelry or wallet cards. So, if an emergency does happen, responders may never find the tattoo and learn of a condition. More importantly, these tattoos aren’t standardized in size, design, or location, so emergency services won’t know what they’re looking for, or where.


Another concern is stigma against tattoos as a whole. While the frequency of tattoos is increasing in American culture, there is still a professional stigma attached to them. Not only this, but medical tattoos are uncommon and the people around you may ask questions about them if they haven’t had exposure to the concept.

Even if these tattoos were standardized, tattoos as a whole are personal decisions. Doctors can’t recommend or force people with chronic issues to get tattoos. Tattoos are on the rise in the U.S., but they’re still far from being universal.


If medical tattoos still appeal to you, consider the following precautions:


  • Consult with your doctor. Personal tattoos are not anyone’s business, but a medical one is. This is more than a personal tattoo – it serves a medical, potentially life-saving purpose. It shouldn’t be hidden from your physician, because the tattoo may cause its own set of issues.
  • Research tattoos and artists. The quality of tattoo could make all the difference between someone picking up its purpose or not. Pick an artist who did artwork on someone whose opinion you trust. Ask questions. Tattoos are permanent– ensure you have as much information as you can before finalizing your decision.
  • Carry a backup ID describing your medical condition. This will ensure that in an emergency, even if a medical responder doesn’t see the tattoo, they’re likely to learn of a chronic condition.
  • Don’t hide the tattoo – the purpose of a medical tattoo is to save your life if an emergency arises, and for medical personnel to be able to find it. It should be noticeable enough to be spotted in an emergency, both in terms of location on the body and design of the tattoo.
  • Ignore the negativity! Some people around you may tend to make negative comments about tattoos. If you are confident in your tattoo, wear it proudly, and dismiss the negativity. It is your body, and your life that tattoo may potentially save.