New apps to help you keep a handle on your health

From storing data about pregnancy to keeping an eye on stress, all is at hand with new technologies

Tue, Jun 3, 2014, 01:00

The popularity of smartphones and the availability of apps mean there is a whole world of information at your fingertips. That’s particularly useful when it comes to looking after your health: there are apps for everything, from controlling medical conditions to finding out the best way to treat simple health problems. While none of the apps are a substitute for medical advice from your doctor, they can help point you in the right direction.

If you prefer your apps to have an Irish link, there are plenty to choose from.

WhatsUpMum Free; iOS and Android If you’ve spent any time in a maternity hospital lately, you might have seen ads for WhatsUpMum. The HSE-backed app offers parents advice about everything from pregnancy and birth to baby care. It looks at each milestone, from antenatal care and labour to how to feed, bathe and otherwise look after a newborn baby. There are things you might never have considered, such as whether it’s normal that your newborn looks a bit squashed and puffy, or what the signs are that your child is ready to be toilet-trained. Each section includes video clips to help make things a little clearer, and you can also browse through some healthy recipes for an ideal eating regime during stressful times.

Child Immunisation Tracker

Free; iOS and Android You know how it is: the first few years of life are hectic, so it’s not surprising that a few things slip through the cracks. But immunisations are important, and this free app from Irish Health will help you keep tabs on everything. Not only will it provide information on each vaccine, but it will also keep you on track. Setting up a new record for each child can be done in a matter of minutes, with the option of adding photos, blood groups and your GP’s contact details. As each vaccine becomes due, the app will give you a gentle reminder. And should the worst happen and an outbreak of a disease become public, it will send users an alert.

There is also the facility to email a copy of the immunisation record, for your own information or for your GP.

Breathe Easy

€5.49; iOS and Android Aimed at asthma sufferers, the Breathe Easy apps are designed to teach you how to control your breathing, with the ultimate aim of reducing reliance on medication and controlling symptoms naturally. Created by Irish developer Sticky Pixels, it outlines the Buteyko breathing method and can also be used to help sufferers of sleep apnoea, snoring and anxiety. It will track all your statistics, allowing you to see just how much you have improved through using it.

There are two versions: Breathe Easy Asthma Timer for adults, and Breathe Easy Asthma Steps for children, which aims to make things a little more fun with animations and music. To get the best out of this app, research the Buteyko breathing method first.

Bug Run School Days

Free; iPad Antibiotic resistance might not be your first thought when you imagine subject matter for a fun game. After all, it’s a serious subject and one that poses the biggest threat to patient safety.

But Bug Run, created by the discipline of general practice at NUI Galway, is hoping to change that. The free iPad app teams a game with an educational video for children and parents. The game portion is aimed at children between four and 10 years old; the educational video targets a more adult audience. In the game, players take on the role of Bob, who must navigate his way through school as quickly as possible, avoiding potential bugs and staying healthy through collecting fruit and water as he goes. Pick up too many bugs and you’ll need to give Bob an antibiotic, but it will also have the side effect of slowing him down.

The video, meanwhile, is an educational animation designed to encourage discussion with GPs on the use of antibiotics.

It’s already been well received, winning a Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Award in the Best Project in General Practice category, for projects that improve patients’ understanding and take more responsibility in managing their health.

Grafton Medical History

Free; iOS and Android New to the App Store is the Grafton Medical History tracker. Created for Dublin’s Grafton Medical Practice, the app offers users a way to track their medical records, any medication they are taking and procedures they have had done, such as blood tests and diagnostic imaging. It will also provide valuable information about different types of procedure, such as an MRI or ultrasound. Allergies and vaccines can also be added to the app, and there is a reminder function so you can add important details such as appointments and vaccine reminders, to the phone calendar.

You can also read up on medical conditions and terms, with a search function that is powered by MedlinePlus.gov. It is password protected.

My Stress Kit

Free, iOS The idea that prevention is better than cure is fundamental to a healthy lifestyle, and keeping tabs on your stress levels may prove crucial to this. My Stress Kit, backed by the health insurance firm Aviva, is designed to help you keep an eye on your stress levels by identifying what is causing it, offering tips to manage stress and keeping a close watch on your stress levels over a period.

It involves a certain level of honesty – you have to be truthful about your current state of mind and what is contributing to your stress levels – but the app will also provide you with coping strategies and information about what stress can do to your body. It’s probably not a good idea to read up on that while you’re in the middle of a full-blown stress attack though.

AMD Aware

Free, iOS Do you know what it’s like to live with degenerative eye disease? Developed by the NCBI and Bayer, AMD Aware is trying to raise awareness of what it is like to live with age-related macular degeneration. About 22,000 people in Ireland are currently living with sight loss caused by the condition, and that figure is predicted to rise in the coming years.

Through the app, you can see what it is like to live with the condition, at varying stages. It also provides some information about the condition, what causes it, and its treatment.

Early diagnosis of the disease can be a critical factor, so raising awareness among family and friends could make a difference to sufferers in the future.

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