Medical bracelet or allergy tattoo?

Have you ever considered getting a tattoo? A recent conversation with my husband revealed that he was not in favour of body art in any way, but when I suggested that I could perhaps get my allergies, medical number and details tattooed instead he actually thought this was a great idea.

Would you get your allergies tatooed?It serves a purpose, would always be with me and would mean that eczema patches which often prevent me from wearing both my medicalert necklace and bracelet would be avoided. But is this a bit of a drastic measure?

I admit that I’m often not wearing mine. They irritate me, mainly due to eczema on my wrists and neck. You have to remember to put them on each day. If you’re going to break any jewellery, sod’s law it will be the expensive silver medicalert bracelet and any jewellery is easy to lose and expensive to replace.

And where on the body should you have such a tattoo? If it was the wrist it would be on display forever so is a very big step to take if the thought of normal tattoos isn’t something you would normally consider. I have never craved a tattoo but have seen some I admire on others, but always thought, not for me. I would never actually go through with it. But if I had a tattoo that said, I am allergic to all nuts, dairy, soya, tomatoes, celery, coriander, nickel, latex, dust… it would go on forever.

I also wonder what guidance tattoo parlours would give someone enquiring about this, would they have the understanding of how such a tattoo might need to work, where it should be and what form it should take for maximum benefit?

It is also possible to be allergic to tattoo ink so always get tested before going ahead.

An interesting article looking at the medical profession’s view on such tattoos, “Medical tattoos with vital information replacing bracelets for some” makes for interesting reading. For instance, would paramedics know where to look for a tattoo? There is an argument that there should be guidance about where on the body an allergy tattoo should be and also that the same template or design be used so that they do actually make sense, speed medical help and get the right message across.

Woven gold and silk tech tattoos

Gold and silk woven tech tattoo with antennae

Source: Daily Mail. Gold and silk woven tech tattoo

Special thanks to Kerri Honeysett who reads my Facebook page for pointing me towards this article about gold medical tattoos that are currently being used on cow’s teeth of all places. Read,
“Tattoo calls for help when you fall ill and researchers believe it could be coming to an arm near you soon” which is in the Daily Mail online to find out more about this woven gold and silk temporary skin embossing which could detect things like bacterial infections and let others know you’re sick. The brains behind this invention is Michael McAlpine, a professor in Princeton, who was inspired to invent this clever device after a woman had asthma attack in a local shop but was till ill to tell anyone what was wrong with her.

Medical necklaces and bracelets

If tattoos seem to be a step too far, there are a number of companies that provide medical bracelets including Mediccalert, Mediband and SOS Medical Tags to name just a few.

If you have a nickel allergy do check before buying that the product us suitable for you as many of the basic and cheaper medical jewellery contains nickel. I made this mistake and despite the bracelet being stainless steel, which I thought would be OK, and that nickel was listed as an allergy, I was still sold a product that caused me allergic reaction. Pretty silly, but very easy to avoid.


Full banner (468x180) Reversible Medibands / Stylish

Mediband Wristbands are made of food grade silicone, easily sterilised and are 100% hypo-allergenic (non-toxic). They have soft, rounded and pliable edges that are less likely to catch on foreign objects and are designed to safely break and snap if enough force is applied.


MedicAlert provides vital details in an emergency… because every moment matters. They support members with a wide range of medical conditions and allergies, which we help them to describe on a custom made emblem. MedicAlert also keeps secure, detailed medical records for our members which can be updated at any time. This information can be accessed in an emergency, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from anywhere in the world, using our emergency telephone number and we are able to converse in over 100 languages. To find our more visit:

SOS Medical Tags

Medical Tags bring you a range of I.D Tags, Medical Identity Tags, Medical Jewellery, I.D Bracelets and Necklaces, Allertags, SOS Talisman and Medical Watches to be worn in case of an accident when you may not be able to communicate to the emergency services. Especially as most patients are transported to the hospital, alone, without relatives or friends to discuss possible life saving medical history.

By wearing your medical information near your main pulse points, your neck or wrist, the item is more easily noticed by emergency staff. In these vital few minutes this is often the only way of conveying your vital drug allergy or medical condition that the medics need to treat you effectively. Visit their website to find out more about Medical tags.

What medical jewellery do you wear?

So what is the answer? Would you consider getting a medical tattoo? What medical jewellery do you currently wear and do you always wear it? Will I go ahead with it? I’m not sure… but I might look into it, just in case.

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.


  1. I think a tattoo is an excellent idea but, as you say, you really need to have an agreed place for it to be so that emergency medics know where to look – without it being horribly obvious. Sole of the foot would be good in terms of ‘inoffensive’ – but, as you say, would there be room enough for all of your allergies?…… Alternatively it needs to be sufficiently decorative to provide the information but still be attractive.

    • Ruth Holroyd says:

      I may just book in to see my local tattooist! And definitely have this on my list of questions for my allergy doctor. That’ll stump him!

  2. a) a tattoo would have to be very long for some and b), I think I would feel somewhat branded! I haven’t solved the medic alert problem yet, but I must get it done so thanks for the list of possible methods.

    • If I had all my allergens tattooed on my arm I’d probably cover a good proportion of it! Ha Ha. It’s all interesting though and I guess if you just had one allergy it would work really well. Especially for things like drugs which could be administered in an effort to save you but in fact could kill you!

  3. Hi I’ve been tweeting @hypnofix about using QR codes for allergy purposes. These data laben ‘Barcodes’ will carry vital info about you,that you wish to share. Share being the operative word.

    I have included a link below where you can see how to make them and what types of info you can include. I would suggest NOT tattooing the sole of the foot it hypersensitive and for some far too boney. Seek a tattooists advice about a suitable accessible site.

    • Hi Phil, this is a really clever idea. It would solve the problem of the tattoo needing to be too big, you could include detailed information and possibly personal info that you might not want tattooed about your person. The best site, is probably at the pulse point on the wrist as paramedics know to check there, a) for your pulse and to check for medical bracelets. They are bit like a bar code though! Would make me feel like I just stepped off a shop shelf. For another one of these, check the bar code. Ha Ha. Love it though. It would certainl mean your infomation was there at all times and you can’t forget it when you go out.

    • I explored the use of QR codes as medic alert for allergies and food intolerances in my degree project last year and have concluded that they’re insufficent as they are not as Quick Response as their name suggests dependant on your smartphone and reader app. Also, there is the privacy issue which you’ve mentioned here. I touched on it in a blog post I made last October after talking to Dougie Kinnear (who used QR-codes for medic alert jewellery in his degree project in 2011: about what the IMprints Identity Management Project ( was doing. You can read it here:

      I’m looking into trying to get some techy people onboard and some money to try working on some sort of special coding/apps, etc, but I need the funding and the tech support before I can do much other than make it look pretty and have ideas. Also, in order to get the funding I need a medical professional working in the field to support it and so far been having no luck as they’re unwilling to talk to someone like me (essentially a untried textiles graduate) or want me to go to exotic locales at short notice (ever heard of phone/email/skype?) which i cann’t afford either financally or health-wise atm.

      I don’t wear medic alert jewellery because nobody makes one for Salicylate Intolerance as far as I can tell, I’m sensitive to nickel, polyester and synthetic fibres (which is what the “write your allergy here bands are made from) and they are ugly. Again, that’s why I’m trying to turn [DNFTA] into a viable business venture/social enterprise.

  4. Well I think silver would be better than gold it has protection against viral and bacterial disease. You could just go all the way and have an RIFD chip as per dog and horse under the skin but thats a bit too big brother for me. QR tattoo in gold that does both well that hits the mark!

    • And the RFID chip could monitor your health and send an alert, 999 call for an ambulance the minute your body starts to go into anaphylaxis, the ambulance will know exactly where you are because the chip will have a location tracker AND it will also have identified exactly what food caused the reaction. Now there is big brother for you.

  5. Brings bling to wellness

  6. I’ve often thought about how to inform others about my little one. I’ve tried t-shirts and stickers and found that people often don’t notice either unless you actually deliberately bring their attention to it.

    I wouldn’t tattoo Baby and probably avoid a tattoo on myself, as I recently read an article which said the inks (of conventional tattoos) are made with heavy metals. The person who wrote the article seemed to think heavy metals affected her adversely. I’ve no idea if they would affect me, but am not keen to find out!

    • Yes no solution is totally idea, I love the idea of tshirts for kids. Medicalert bracelets are so expensive, if you can’t have nickel. My silver one is not comfortable and I can never wait to take it off. Not great cos it means I often don’t wear it. And no, not sure I would tattoo myself either.

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