We never know when we'll need emergency medical attention. Afterall, that's the definition of an emergency -- an event that we haven't planned for.
For those who have medical conditions that could affect the kind of care they need, there is an extra element of fear thrown in to an emergency situation. If you have diabetes, or a heart condition, or any type of chronic illness, and the emergency would render you unable to explain the problem to medical personnel, they would not know to account for those problems, and it might jeopardize your ability to be treated or saved.
What is ICE?
The acronym ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. It is recognized by emergency medical techicians (EMTs), firefighters, emergency room personnel, and others who deal with accidents, fires, and other types of emergencies that could injure us or make us sick.
What Information Do They Need?
The information they may need depends on the injuries you've received, or what caused you to become ill. And of course, you can never anticipate what those problems might be. From blood type, to medical condition, to the drugs you take, to basic insurance information; the more information they can get their hands on, the better chance your treatment will be appropriate and helpful.
A master list of details emergency personnel might find useful can be found here. Even better, you may develop an entire PHR (personal health record) that contains much more than just your emergency information. Either way, this information will be invaluable to those who must treat you.
How Can You Be Sure They Get the Information They Need?
The answer to that question may depend on where you are located when the emergency happens.
If you are at home, access to the important details will be more readily available than if you are somewhere else. You might be at work, on vacation, even in the supermarket; if you are surrounded by strangers, how will they know what to do to help you?
Using Your Cell Phone
If you carry a cell phone with you most of the time, you can use this little programming trick to help medical personnel locate your next of kin. Simply program your next of kin's phone numbers (home, work and cell) into your phone, and instead of using that person's name as the identifier, then use the acronym ICE instead. Emergency personnel will look for a contact called ICE, and will know they can dial those phone numbers to reach your next of kin for information about you, and permission to treat you. some people even put a sticker on their phone or use a permanent marker to write ICE on their phones so emergency personnel will know those phone numbers have been programmed.
Using a Travel Drive
If you have a more difficult medical condition, you'll want to consider this next tool, too.
Create a document on your computer that includes all the details medical personnel may need to know. Name the document ICE. Be sure to use a basic word processor like Word or Works.
Purchase a travel drive, also called a flash drive, personal drive or a thumb drive. It's one of those small computer storage devices that can fit on a key chain or in a purse. Now make a copy of the ICE document you've created and save it to your travel drive. Use a permanent marker or use a sticker to note ICE right on the drive. Then attach it to your key chain or drop it into your purse.
If something should happen to you that requires emergency medical treatment, personnel will look for a document called ICE on your travel drive. Since you've used a basic word processor to create the document, it will be easy for them to open. The information they need will be readily accessible.
Should You Keep Emergency Information Online?
There is controversy surrounding the accessibility of personal health information on websites such as Microsoft's Health Vault or Google's Health Profiles because they may not be private or secure. Since online storage providers are not designated healthcare services, they are not subject to the same privacy and security laws mandated through Federal HIPAA legislation.
What is important to you is that emergency information be available. It doesn't have to be online. Cell phones and travel drives make it accessible to those who need it.
You can program ICE information into all your loved ones' cell phones, and you can create travel drives for them, too.
Keep the information updated. Any time the basics change, you'll want to edit the information on your travel drive to reflect the changes.
Once you find yourself in the emergency room, there are some tips you'll want to follow.
And from the About.com Guide to First Aid.