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When a patient is seen for the first time in an emergency, such as an accident or collapse, essential information about his medical background may be lacking. ‘Risk cards’ are available for those suffering from diabetes, epilepsy or a bleeding tendency, and those receiving oral anticoagulants, corticosteroids or monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Ideally, every patient receiving continued treatment for a chronic condition would carry a written record of it, and so would patients with any abnormality that presents a hazard in an emergency, for example allergy to tetanus toxoid or to penicillin, or only one functioning kidney.

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