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A difficult situation in my line of work as an EMT occurs when a patient can’t communicate with us and there is no one around who can inform us of the patient’s important medical information. Unfortunately this happens way too often. If you have any medical problems, take medications, or have any food or drug-related allergies, you should write these down and keep the paper with you in case of emergency. This is especially important for the elderly population.
When emergency medical services arrive to take care of you we need to find out specific information. Your name, date of birth, and address we can easily get from any identification you’re carrying. However there is vital information we need that is a little more difficult to obtain if you are unable to communicate.
One vital piece of information is medical history. What medical problems do you have? Do you have diabetes, heart problems, asthma? Have you had any surgeries? This is very important for medical staff to know because it can give us some insight into your current problem.
We also need to know what medications you take. This is includes supplements and over-the-counter medications. Why is this important? For one, it gives us a more in-depth view into your current medical condition. But it also tells us if any medication we may give you will interact with anything you're already taking.
Allergies to food and medications is another important detail. Again if we are going to give you a medication we need to know if you might be allergic to it. Some people are also allergic to the glue products used in medical tape or latex.
For most people remembering all these details can be challenging, especially when put on the spot by medical personnel or in the heat of a stressful medical situation. More importantly, if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate, this information won’t be accessible and it could mean your life. So what can you do?
I highly recommend keeping a medical information card in your wallet that should be placed behind your drivers license or identification. Other options include using medical alert jewelry, which can contain only a limited amount of information, or a medical ID application on your cell phone, though this only works if your phone is functioning and the battery charged.
Write down basic information like your name, date of birth, and address, as well as your medical history, medications, and allergies. Additional helpful information includes an emergency contact number, your primary doctor’s information, and hospital preference.
Medical Information Example:
Name: Johnny Doe
Address: 123 Main St., Small Town, USA 12345
Date of Birth: 8/1/1972
Medical History: Asthma, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes
Surgery: Back surgery in 2008 from a car accident
Medications: Albuterol, Advair, Metoprolol, Metformin, Lantus
Allergies: Shellfish, Penicillin
Emergency Contact: Jane Doe (Wife) 123-555-5309
Primary Physician: Dr. Spaceman
Hospital Preference: General Hospital
If you have elderly parents or relatives, help them put together an information sheet with all this information and stick it to the refrigerator or some other accessible place. Make sure everyone who cares for them, such as home care attendants, knows where it is. Also make sure to update the list periodically.
It takes some preparation, but having this information available can make a huge difference in an emergency. So be prepared and make sure your vital health information is readily accessible to healthcare providers when it’s needed most.
Emergency Medical Technician, Basic Life Support Instructor