Wearing a Medical ID Tag During a Marathon: Elevating Safety and Wellbeing as a Runner

By: Sara Zipf

Wearing a Medical ID Tag During a Marathon: Elevating Safety and Wellbeing as a Runner

 At least 50% of regular runners get hurt each year (some estimates put the percentage higher), according to Yale Medicine. While getting fitted for the proper sneakers, cross-training, and stretching can all help avoid injuries, preparing for the unexpected can come in handy, too. In addition to the potential for injury, runners that experience a medical condition, can effectively enhance their safety and wellbeing via a medical ID tag. From the value that such tags can bring to why they can be a great way to prepare for the unexpected during an upcoming race, medical ID tags can bring a variety of benefits to any run.

ID medical tags serve the purpose of conveying important information when an individual is unable to do so themselves. Similar to dog tags, which have been used in the military for generations as a form of identification, their origins have roots in the Civil War (though weren’t officially used until the year 1899). These tags work to effectively identify fallen soldiers or those injured on the battlefield. Red dog tags, on the other hand, symbolize that the wearer has an underlying medical condition or allergy. As such, medics can use the information in order to provide effective treatment for a soldier — a severe allergy to a certain medication, for example, can be avoided altogether thanks to the presence of the red dog tag.

In the civilian world, the medical ID tags of today come in different forms, from tags to bracelets. For a runner who experiences a medical condition or allergy, a medical ID tag is an efficient way to inform others of valuable medical information should the runner become incapacitated. Often, medical ID tags display the wearer’s condition or allergy, and may feature emergency contact information as well. This information is imperative should the unexpected occur, as not only will other runners be able to easily identify the information in order to get help, but medical professionals can use the information to their advantage when providing effective treatment.

 Exploring the risks of a marathon

Taking part in the Key West Half Marathon and 5K is a rewarding and fulfilling endeavor. However, running a marathon is not without a few risks, which further work to spotlight the benefits of wearing a medical ID tag while running. For example, one study found that marathon runners suffered mostly from lower leg muscle injuries. While injuries are unlikely to leave a runner incapacitated, those with medical conditions need to take extra care when planning to participate in a marathon or 5K race. For example, a runner who experiences a medical condition like diabetes may encounter challenges such as ensuring that their blood sugar levels stay stable throughout the race. Whether a runner has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, monitoring glucose levels during the run is imperative, Amanda Kirpitch, MA, RD, and certified diabetes educator (CDE) told Runners World. This is because glucose levels may fall both during and after a run — furthermore, the article notes that the risk for hypoglycemia remains immediately following activity and up to 24-48 hours afterwards.

Diabetic hypoglycemia, according to the Mayo Clinic, involves early warning signs and symptoms that include difficulty concentrating, nausea or hunger, and dizziness or lightheadedness. Untreated diabetic hypoglycemia may include severe signs and symptoms like confusion, unusual behavior (or both), loss of coordination, and blurry or tunnel vision, to highlight just a few. It’s further noted that severe hypoglycemia may cause convulsions, unconsciousness, or in rare instances, death, thus underlining the importance of running with immense care and attention to your body, as well as consulting with a doctor regarding the proper protocol for your medical needs before participating in a marathon.

Hydration — another valuable factor

Hydration is another major factor, with staying properly hydrated imperative for runners. According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydration can occur in any age group if you don’t drink enough water during hot weather, “especially if you are exercising vigorously.” While it’s noted that mild to moderate dehydration can usually be reversed by drinking more fluids, severe dehydration will require immediate medical treatment. It’s imperative to realize that Florida’s climate can add more risk for dehydration. “When it’s hot and humid, your risk of dehydration and heat illness increases,” explains the Mayo Clinic. “That’s because when the air is humid, sweat can’t evaporate and cool you as quickly as it normally does, and this can lead to an increased body temperature and  the need for more fluids.” Symptoms of dehydration in adults include extreme thirst, less frequent urination, and dark-colored urine, though fatigue, dizziness, and confusion can be symptoms as well. Those experiencing symptoms like confusion may have trouble communicating important information to other runners or medical professionals, further underlining the value in a medical ID tag that can convey such information during an emergency situation.

Participating in the Key West Half Marathon and 5K is an amazing accomplishment for anyone, though it’s imperative to put your health and wellbeing at the forefront of each and every race. For runners with a medical condition or allergy, wearing a medical ID tag or bracelet is an ideal way to communicate with others in an unexpected emergency situation.

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