9 Ways Your Cellphone Can Save Your Life
Get help when you’re injured or lost and avert a medical emergency with these apps and phone features
You’re lost in the woods. Stuck on a dark road with a flat tire. Have a chronic medical condition like diabetes or asthma. Or are just wondering about that odd mole on your leg. In these cases and many more, your smartphone could get (or keep) you out of trouble.
Here are nine ways to use your smartphone to prevent problems and help in an emergency.
1. Add some “ICE” to your contact list. Short for “In Case of Emergency,” the letters ICE in your phone contact list tell emergency responders who to call if you’ve been in an accident. Add ICE before a person’s name, for example, ICE Mary Smith. If you’d like to list more than one emergency content, add numbers, such as ICE1 Mary Smith, ICE2 Bruce Jones. ICE apps are also available for iPhone and Android.
2. Program your phone so others can locate you. Apps designed to help you track a lost smartphone or keep tabs on a teenager or older relative can also help other people find you in an emergency. Many tracker apps, like Prey and AccuTracking, are available for iPhone, Android and Windows phones. You can also download apps like Life360 that let selected friends and family spot your current location.
3. Text when you can’t call. Stuck in a ditch on a remote road with a weak signal? Can’t get through on your cell during a disaster because the networks are overloaded with calls? Try texting. “Text messages require much less capacity, so they may go through even if a voice call cannot,” the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) notes on its website.
4. Find or light your way. Lost? In the dark? Don’t forget about phone features like maps, GPS and flashlights that can help.
5. Remember your medicines. Mobile apps can nudge you to take your pills on time. Some even help you order prescription refills by contacting your pharmacy at the touch of a button. There are dozens on the market, and many are free or cost less than $1 to download. A few include Rxmind Me, MedCoach and MediSafe Meds & Pill Reminder.
6. Monitor your health. Medical devices you use at home to measure health indicators such as your blood pressure, blood sugar or lung function (if you have asthma) can now send the data directly to your smartphone — and your doctor. There are also countless apps that let you track your medications, diet, exercise and sleep. Other apps, like AsthmaMD, alert you to asthma triggers so that you can sidestep an asthma attack.
7. Give yourself an ECG. Several devices now allow you to give yourself a basic electrocardiogram (ECG). For example, you get give yourself an ECG, monitor your heart rate and check for atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) with the help of the AliveECG app, which works with the AliveCor Heart Monitor.
8. Check a suspicious mole. Several apps, including UMSkinCheck and SkinVision, claim to help you do a thorough check for early signs of skin cancer and let you snap photos of suspicious moles, which the app can assess. But user beware: Even the makers of these apps recommend seeing a doctor if you’ve got a worrisome skin spot, regardless of an app’s findings. In a 2012 review of four skin-checker apps, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that the most accurate missed almost 30 percent of suspicious moles.
9. Use your emergency training to save a life. More than half of American adults have been trained in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), yet most never get to use this life-saving skill. The Pulse Point app, intended for emergency responders and people with CPR training, sends a signal to your phone when there’s a cardiac emergency nearby. In September 2014, a car mechanic trained in CPR saved the life of a baby who had stopped breathing after receiving an alert on this phone, according to news reports. The app also gives the location of the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED), a machine that can save the life of a person in sudden cardiac arrest.
Also check out five emergency apps everyone should have on their phone.