What You Should Know About Medical Tattoos

Tattoos can reveal a lot about a person. People get tattoos declaring their interests, religious beliefs, and their inspirations. Tattoos can be memorials for lost loved ones and reminders of milestones in a person's life. Now, a growing trend lends another possible meaning to a person's tattoos. Some people are opting for medical tattoos as alternatives to medical alert bracelets.

The now-common medical alert bracelet was developed in the 1950s after Linda Collins, the daughter of a doctor, suffered a severe reaction to a tetanus antitoxin. She and her father developed the silver bracelet many people now wear, and standardized the engraving and design, according to the Medical Alert Foundation.

This seemingly simple invention has since saved countless lives. The bracelets can be customized to fit a wide array of conditions and medical needs. As one reporter pointed out when speaking to U.S. News and World Report in 2015, however, the bracelets can occasionally break. Tired of replacing his bracelet, the reporter opted for a medical tattoo instead. On the surface, it seems like an easy swap. That being said, anyone considering replacing their own bracelet may want to consider a few key points first.

Medical tattoos occasionally go unseen

U.S. News and World Report interviewed Dr. Mark Reiter, former president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Reiter said that while he had heard of medical alert tattoos, he had not seen one in his more than 10 years of experience in emergency medicine. This didn't bother Dr. Reiter, however. He explained that emergency personnel were not trained to look for medical tattoos, unlike medical alert bracelets. Because medical alert tattoos aren't standardized, they can give mixed signals.

"If I saw somebody who came in and had a tattoo that said 'diabetes,' I'd think that this guy probably has diabetes, but who knows?" he told the news source.

Currently, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine has no official stance on medical alert tattoos. This does not mean that people should forget about medical alert tattoos, however. A single word may be ambiguous, but as HuffPost noted back in 2015, there are many ways that a medical alert tattoo can get all the necessary information across. This is especially the case for people with multiple conditions or medical considerations.

As with other tattoos, a medical alert tattoo is a personal choice. They may continue to grow in popularity, rendering concerns about field training obsolete. Until then, it is an important consideration to keep in mind before leaving a medical alert bracelet at home.