Part of me has always regretted not getting a tattoo during the years we lived in Amsterdam (which part of me I need not share). But I definitely tingled when I recently ran into this post: “I have a friend who had ‘diabetes mellitus’ tattooed on one arm and a syringe tattooed on the other when he was a teenager. Looks kind of cool. He didn’t have any problems with having it done, but if you are considering it I’d sure check with my doctor and make sure a very reputable artist did the work and used clean needles! I’d be a little leary of it myself.”
Now there’s a whole new set of thoughts for me, as a relative newbie: Forget wearing medical ID jewelry. I could get a tattoo! But put it somewhere where emergency personnel would find it straight away. Oh no, where would that be?! And of course: being a diabetic constantly using needles, I am SCARED of infection.
So as usual, I did a little homework. First of all, LA Raider Dustin Rykert made headlines with his diabetes tattoo a few years ago. In his case, medical alert tags wouldn’t stand up to the roughhousing of football, so he had a medical alert symbol tattooed on his chest, along with his name and the fact he has type 1 diabetes. The articles all warn that achieving good blood glucose control first is essential to proper healing and preventing infection. In other words, if you’re not a professional athlete with a full health-monitoring staff, beware.
I found a doctor’s advice column that says: “I have some patients who have gotten tattoos. My recommendation is that your hemoglobin A1c be below 8% before considering it and that you check out the reputation and sanitation of the tattoo parlor you are planning to use. Also, remember that this tattoo will be with you the rest of your life. What is it going to look like when you are 60, 70, 80? Are you still going to want it at that age?” Um, OK, less interested now.
And further: “If you are not in good control, you will have problems with healing. Your blood glucose levels can go up during the tattoo process itself due to the stress from the pain level, but your levels should come back down the next day.”
Proceed with caution, yes, but wouldn’t tattoos be just the perfect solution for diabetic kids or teens who resist wearing the all-important medical alert gear? As discussed in Diabetes Health a while back, parents who normally wouldn’t sanction a tattoo on their child for any reason (over my ….!) do realize that a medic-alert tattoo might well mean survival for a person with a life-threatening disease.
Luckily, some clever souls came up with the idea of marketing temporary tattoos for this purpose. Wouldn’t it be nice to be free of clunky Medic Alert jewelry while swimming and sunbathing this summer?!
Duly noted: there have been increasing incidences of allergic reactions to temporary tattoos, but as Dermatology Online Journal points out, this is most likely due to the use of artificial materials instead of the natural henna that humans have been painting themselves with for thousands of years. So you’ll want to be careful where you order yours from.
The T.H.O.R. Foundation for Children with Diabetes sells FDA-approved Temporary Medical ID Tattoos (pictured above) that last about 3-5 days and won’t irritate the skin, they claim. I’m thinking of ordering some myself, just to see where I might decide to put them!