Using tattoos to save lives

By • Published: August 20th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Forget the little star inked on an ankle or the fire-breathing dragon that graces many a biker’s bicep. For a growing number of people, getting a tattoo is less about making a statement and more about staying alive.

Typically, people with conditions such as diabetes or allergies wear medical alert bracelets to notify emergency responders of their conditions. Now, some folks are opting out of jewelry for a more permanent solution… medical tattoos.

Currently, there are no studies showing how many patients are choosing ink over hardware like necklaces or bracelets. But doctors say they do seem to be seeing more patients who are going under the needle for their conditions.

The trend may suit hipsters who don’t want to sport bulky baubles, but a tattooed medical alert could pose problems for health professionals. Emergency workers don’t always look for tattoos, and depending on where it is, they may not even see it.

Experts advise people to get tattoos that clearly state the medical issue and are easy to see.

Doctors also caution patients to have a pre-tattoo talk with their physicians to make sure their health is in check. For example, diabetic patients need to have proper blood sugar levels before a tattoo to reduce the risk of an infection.

The most important thing to remember is medical alerts are key if you have a serious condition or allergy, no matter whether you choose bracelets or a beast breathing the word “diabetes” on your forearm.