Hospitals have long used color-coded bracelets as shorthand to communicate patients’ needs to doctors and nurses. For instance, a purple bracelet might indicate that a terminally ill patient does not wish to be resuscitated in the event of heart failure.
Now there is a movement to standardize bracelets, preventing confusion when a health care worker moves from one hospital where (for instance) yellow bracelets mean “do not resuscitate” to another where they indicate an allergy to peanuts.
Bracelets have other pitfalls–for instance, a patient might not wish to advertise a certain desire or condition to visiting loved ones. And children have a tendency to take them off and trade them with each other.
The important thing, if you or a loved one is staying in a hospital, is to know what the colors of your bracelets mean and be prepared to tell doctors and nurses about it. If a doctor or nurse comes up to you or your loved one and begins doing something you don’t understand, do not hesitate to ask about it–not only is it good for you to know these things in general, but they may be acting on a misinterpretation of the colored bracelet.