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Don't Leave Without It!


Medical I.D. Alert

"Medical I.D. card could save life"

Ann Landers — Advice Columnist

Dear Ann: Please tell yoAnn Landersur readers to keep a brief, current medical history with them at all times. I used to do this, but neglected to keep it updated and suddenly realized it would be of little use in case of an emergency.

Last week, I typed up a list of all my medications, major or minor chronic illnesses I have had, a list of drugs to which I have had adverse reactions, plus the surgeries I’ve had done over the years, including cosmetic procedures. I then took the typed paper to a local copy store where it was reduced to a small but readable size. I had it laminated so it wouldn't disintegrate, and put it with my insurance card in my purse.

Within three days, I was injured in a car accident and found myself in the emergency room. I was so shaken up I could barely remember my name, but I was able to give the hospital personnel that laminated card. What a relief it was to know they had all the information they needed to treat me properly.

Please tell your readers this small precaution could save their lives. And if folks aren't sure what information should be put on the card, they can ask their doctor or pharmacist. — Judy in Evanston, Ill.

Dear Judy in Evanston: Thank you for a letter that could mean the difference between life and death, and this is no exaggeration. I love my readers and want them to stay alive and well. Your input is deeply appreciated.

Abby Vanburen

"Answers needed in medical emergency"

Abigal Van Buren, Advice Columnist — Dear Abby

Dear Abby: I work in a hospital emergency department in a suburb of Cleveland. Because your column is printed in newspapers across the country and beyond, I thought it would be the best way to get an important message out to the public.

Many patients come to the ER because they're in pain, confused, unresponsive, or have been subject to serious injury. Sometimes patients come to the ER because of what they feel is a minor problem. Then, after testing and examination, we find a more complicated problem that requires hospitalization. Many times finding the cause of the patient's situation can be difficult because of inadequate information.

The three most common areas of misinformation are medications and dosages the patient takes, medication allergies and past medical history. Occasionally no identification can cause a problem. Taking medications like Coumadin, Lanoxin, Dilantin, Depakote, digoxin, theophylline, phenobarbital and others requires blood samples to check the amount of the drug in the bloodstream. These medications, among others, can be responsible for anything from severe bleeding to seizures, severe lethargy, weakness, fatigue, abnormal heart rhythm and blurred vision.

Unfortunately, these can also be symptoms of problems like gastrointestinal bleeding, epilepsy, meningitis, strokes and lethal arrythmias.

The bottom line is: Know your past medical history (i.e., appendix removed, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.). Know what medicines you are allergic to. Know what medications you take and the dosages.

And last, but not least, write your name, medical history, drug allergies, medications and dosages on two pieces of paper. Put one in your wallet or purse, and one on your refrigerator, kitchen counter or bathroom medicine cabinet. This way, you will have them with you—or someplace a paramedic can find them—in the worst situation. It’s for your benefit.

— Rick Geisheimer, R.N.

Dear Rick: Thank you for the potentially lifesaving reminder. For most of us, making such a list will take only a few minutes. Readers, do it now—don't procrastinate!


Health Tips

Medical information in an emergency

Do you have important medical information handy in case of an emergency?

Record the following information for each family member. Keep it in a convenient location, and update it regularly.


Illnesses and prior surgeries: List any chronic or severe illness and any surgeries and when you had them.

Medications: Include all medications you're taking, including over-the-counter drugs, and their dosages. If possible, bring your medication bottles with you to the emergency room.

Allergy information: List any substances to which you’re allergic or to which you’ve had bad reactions.

Hospitalizations: If you've recently been to an emergency room or been hospitalized, state when and why.

Your doctor: Include the name and phone number of your primary care physician and any specialists involved in your care.

Contact person: Give the name and phone number of someone who can act on your behalf.

Insurance information: List your health insurance and policy number. If you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, list your identification number.


DoEmergencyn't Leave Without It!

People don't keep relevant medical information handy, so when faced with an emergency, they’re often scrambling to remember important details that might affect treatment.

The Mayo Clinic Health Letter advises consumers to keep the following information in your wallet or purse.

A list of any chronic or severe illness and surgeries and when you had them.

A list of all medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, and their dosages.

A list of any substances to which you'e allergic or to which you've had bad reactions.

Include the name and phone number of your primary care physician and specialists involved in your care.

Include the name and phone number of a contact person, someone who can act on your behalf.

Keep handy your health card, hospital card and any insurance information.


College Student"Give College Kids Health Care Lesson"

"As your teenagers move away to school, make sure they know their medical background and how to find care when they need it.

Your child... should carry a wallet-sized card with information including blood type, allergies and emergency contacts.

Your child should be able to relate his or her complete medical history ...and have a copy of their medical history.


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