Which emergency symbol should be on my medical alert bracelet?

September 15, 2020

Which emergency symbol should be on my medical alert bracelet?

To make it easier to identify medical information in an emergency situation, there are two commonly used symbols that medical staff are trained to look out for. What are they? And which one should you choose for your medical alert or ID jewellery?

The two emergency medical symbols are very similar -- one is called the Caduceus, and the other is the Staff of Asclepius (also known as the Star of Life).

One of the common features between the two is the snake. But why a snake?

There's a long history of snakes and healing. Back in 1400 BC, Moses used a bronze snake erected on a pole to cure people who had been bitten by snakes. And much more recent medical experiments concluded that vipers were the key to valuable remedies for itching, measles and smallpox. The fact that they shed their skin reinforces the idea of immortality, longevity and healing.


The Caduceus symbol

The origin of the word "caduceus" is Latin, from Doric Greek "karukeion", from Greek "kērux" or "herald".

The Caduceus symbol has two snakes wrapped around a staff, with two wings at the top.

Caduceus snake staff medical alert bracelets


The Staff of Asclepius (Star of Life) symbol

The Staff of Asclepius is a similar design featuring one snake wrapped around a wingless staff.

Star of Life Staff of Asclepius medical ID jewellery


Connections to Mythology

Both symbols are rooted in Greek mythology. The Caduceus symbol is most closely associated with the Greek god Hermes. Greek mythology says that Hermes was given the staff by Apollo, the god of healing. He once attempted to stop a fight between two snakes by throwing his staff at them, and they twined themselves around the rod. Hermes liked it so much, he took it as his own symbol, representing his areas of commerce and travel. Over time this expanded to include professionalism and craft.

Asclepius was the Greek god of healing. According to mythology he was able to restore the health of the sick and bring the dead back to life. The daughters of Asclepius are known to us today as Hygeia (the goddess of health) and Pancea (the goddess of healing).


Organisations, Uniforms and Logos

In ancient times most towns had a building called an asklepion. These were healing centres dedicated to Asclepius. Sick people were encouraged to visit them for an overnight stay and it was said that whilst they slept, Asclepion would appear to them in a dream, accompanied by a serpent who would lick them and cure them of their ailment. These sound like the equivalent of modern day hospitals (but without the snakes!)

Various organisations and military units have used these symbols. During the 19th century the Caduceus was often used on the chevrons of army hospital stewards in the United States. It was added to the uniforms of the US Army medical officers in 1902, symbolising neutrality and non-combatants.

The Staff of Asclepius (Star of Life) became the emblem of the American Medical Association in 1910. It's used around the world as well ... the French Military Service, the Medical Council of India and the World Health Organization all draw on these visual elements in their logos.

And it's still a mixed picture today. Research done by K A Baird in 1990 showed that 62% of professional associations used the Rod of Aesculapius while 37% used the Caduceus. And 76% of commercial organizations used the Caduceus.


Which emergency medical symbol should you use on a medical alert bracelet or necklace?

It really doesn't matter. Both will be effective.

Sometimes the design of the jewellery you are purchasing will dictate which symbol can be engraved (due to size and space available). Some medical jewellery companies just choose to engrave one or the other. Some organisations will include one of the symbols in their logo, so you will only see that symbol on their jewellery.

But really to comes down to personal preference. You can rest assured that whether you choose a diabetes or allergy bracelet with a Caduceus symbol or the Star of Life ... if you are involved in an emergency, medical staff will recognise them both and act accordingly.

The most important thing is that it DOES HAVE a symbol. This will help bring it to the attention of a first responder or medical professional.

Which one do you prefer, and why? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below...

1 Response

Iris Hudson
Iris Hudson

November 17, 2020

Does the symbol have to b in red?
… can it in purple or blue or any other color.
Or is RED preferred/more readily spotted….or more universal?

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in News

Back to School with a Medical Condition or Allergy
Back to School with a Medical Condition or Allergy

September 07, 2021

With just a bit of extra planning around medical conditions, open communication about allergies and the right type of adjustments for epilepsy, diabetes or autism, your child will be able to look forward to the upcoming school year as much as any kid their age.

View full article →

How Colour Therapy Can Lift Your Mood and Promote Healing
How Colour Therapy Can Lift Your Mood and Promote Healing

April 26, 2021

Different colours can be used to improve your mood and overall health through a practice called Colour Therapy. Learn what these colours mean and how they can impact your health. Add them to your home, your desk, or your medical alert jewellery, to help balance your energy centres and promote healing.

View full article →

Best Easter ideas for families with diabetes or food allergies
Best Easter ideas for families with diabetes or food allergies

March 02, 2021

From piles of chocolate eggs to sweet Easter treats without an ingredient list, Easter can be a challenge for diabetics or anyone with a food allergy. We've checked out the shops for the best Easter chocolates from the high street and small businesses. And we have some crafting and making ideas for both kids and grown ups, so your Easter will be a success for anyone with diabetes or allergies.

View full article →

Welcome to Butler & Grace. We offer products and services for sale under these terms and conditions, which apply to every order, and can only be changed with the express written consent of Butler & Grace Ltd.

It is important that you take the time to read them carefully. They will be updated from time to time without notice (current version is 1.02), and you can always access the current version of the terms on this webpage.

If you have any questions about these terms and conditions, please contact us at hello@butlerandgrace.co

** Please also read our Privacy Policy **


Explanation of Terminology


Intellectual Property Rights


Moderation of Content


Variation of Specification


Prices and Payment




Care of Jewellery


Quality and Performance




Alterations and Repairs


Love It Guarantee




Force Majeure




Butler & Grace Ltd Logo