No matter how prepared you might be for life’s unexpected bumps and contusions—first aid kits in the cars, a Red Cross CPR certification in your wallet—there’s always the possibility that when a real medical emergency arises, it won’t be within easy reach of a first-aid kit or someone who’s taken CPR. But you may have your iPhone on you.
iPhone apps provide a handy way to refresh a memory that’s gone blank in the face of an emergency or to provide first-aid knowledge you never thought you’d need. I took a look at four first-aid apps, with a clear winner emerging out of that quartet.
One thing I did like about CPR Buddy: in the respiratory CPR cycle, the beeps change tone when the user is supposed to switch from chest compressions to rescue breaths. That’s a handy audio cue.
But American Medical Aid has a problem with how it presents some info. If you need to look up instructions on how to survive a hotel fire (under Survival), for example, it might help if the instructions were less wordy and more step-by-step with pictures. Nobody wants to read in an emergency.
Still, the app’s Call area, which lets you program in your medical and emergency contacts, is a smart idea, as is the feature that lets you convert your iPhone into a blinking distress beacon.
The biggest nitpick: in reviewing the CPR information in Pocket First Aid & CPR, the information about placing your rescuer’s hands during the chest compressions is slightly misleading. But that may be due to the differences between how the Red Cross teaches the procedure and how the American Heart Association does.
When you click the $6 app’s Injury button, a graphic, color-coded group of icons comes up—again, perfect for helping panicky people find the information they need quickly. Once the user clicks on the injury category—Breathing, Choking, Drowning, for example—the software asks yes and no questions (“Is the victim breathing?”) and displays treatment instructions depending on the input. This is a great way to walk people through performing unfamiliar tasks in stressful situations.
Any reference work can be puzzled through when the user is calm; a portable first-aid guide needs to provide information to its users in the middle of stressful situations. ResQr First Aid and CPR Coach is a reference guide that Red Cross card-carriers and rookies alike can appreciate.
All four apps are compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.
[Lisa Schmeiser is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been certified in American Red Cross CPR and lifeguarding since 1987.]