What Is a Vial of Life?

A Vial of Life is a list of your medical history, current medications, and emergency contacts. You keep it on the fridge so paramedics can give you proper medical treatment during an emergency.

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Cathy Habas
Staff Writer, Safety & Security
March 07, 2022

Think of the Vial of Life as the longer version of a medical ID bracelet. Filling out a Vial of Life form is an important part of medical emergency preparedness. It’s not just for older adults—anyone who spends time alone should fill one out.

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Image: Cathy Habas, SafeWise

Do I really need a Vial of Life?

Hopefully it won’t need to be used. But in the event that you pass out or are too disoriented to speak to emergency medical personnel, the Vial of Life form gives them critical information so they can make better-informed decisions to care for you.

What kind of information is on a Vial of Life form?

The Vial of Life form includes the following sections:

  • Your contact information, including date of birth, Social Security number, and primary language
  • Health insurance information, including the company name and your policy or Medicare number
  • The names and numbers of emergency contacts
  • Your doctor’s name and phone number
  • A section about power of attorney for your health care
  • A section asking if you have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) or Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) on file
  • An area for listing current medications/supplements and dosages
  • Sections for allergies and medical conditions
  • A catchall area on the back for other important medical information, such as any implanted medical devices or preferred hospitals

Image: Cathy Habas, SafeWise

What else should I put in my Vial of Life?

If you live with other people and there’s more than one Vial of Life on the fridge, tuck a recent photo of each person in front of the paperwork. It’ll help paramedics grab the right one.

Consider adding copies of this paperwork:

  • Power of attorney
  • DNR/POLST
  • Recent EKG
  • Living will

How much does Vial of Life cost?

You can download and print a free Vial of Life kit online, but you’ll have to come up with your own system for storing the documents on your fridge. You can also spend between $8 and $30 to get the forms plus magnetic storage envelopes.

Vial of Life form and envelope from Bay Alarm Medical. Images: Cathy Habas, SafeWise

Where do I get a Vial of Life?

Vial of Life Kit

*Amazon.com list price current as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Forms are free to print out on the Vial of Life program website. After filling it out, fold it up, place it into a sandwich bag, and stick it to your fridge. If you go this route, you should also print out a red Vial of Life decal for the front of the sandwich baggie so emergency responders quickly recognize it.

If you’re in the market for a medical alert system, you can order a Vial of Life with your equipment. Bay Alarm Medical, GetSafe, and   are a few of the medical alert companies that offer the Vial of Life, and they typically charge less than $10 for it.

Finally, you can buy the medical information form plus storage folders online from companies like StoreSMART.

Where is the Vial of Life kept?

Keep the Vial of Life on your fridge, since this is where most first responders know to look for it. It’s also smart to keep an extra copy in your glove box, purse, or wallet.

Image: Cathy Habas, SafeWise

Where should the Vial of Life decal be posted?

Vial of Life kits may also come with a decal or sticker. Place it in a window on your front door or in a front-facing window so that EMS personnel know you have one.

Most emergency responders are trained to look for a Vial of Life on the refrigerator even if there’s no decal on the front door, but it doesn’t hurt to display it.

Why is it called a Vial of Life?

Vial of Life is sometimes written as Vial of L.I.F.E., where “life” stands for “Lifesaving Information for Emergencies.” Originally the forms were tucked into a plastic container like an old pill bottle, hence the name “vial.” An alternative name is File of Life, reflecting the current trend of keeping this form in a folder.

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Disclaimer

*Product prices and availability are accurate as of post date and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over seven years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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