Summer can be a dangerous time of year. The clothes come off, the sun blazes, and the bees and mosquitoes come out. We’re more active, which means more opportunities for accidents, such as ankle twists and bruises. As you head bravely into the outdoors, here’s a toolkit of Android and iOS apps you can use to deal with sunburns, surf, stings, sprains, and much more.
When it comes to dealing with unexpected ailments and injuries, it’s hard to beat the American Red Cross. The top section of its app lets you browse through emergency categories, where you can get quick treatment options for everything from sun stroke to stings and bites. Click on a condition, and a numbered list gives you tips for best handling your situation.
When the condition is serious enough, a button appears that will automatically prep your phone to dial 911. The app’s “Hospital” option is also particularly helpful, as it gives you a list of the nearest medical facilities. You can tap on a link to call them or pull them up on a map.
The “Prepare” category helps you plan for emergencies in advance, such as a heatwave or tornado. Finally, the “Summer Safety” option will give you a good overview of different steps you can take to prepare yourself for the worst the dog days can throw at you. (Tap the “Quizzes” category to test your knowledge.)
While PlantNet is mainly for identifying and sharing flora discoveries around the world, you’ll want it as a part of your summer app toolkit if you need to check on a few particular plans that can ruin your day—such as poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac. Type the itch-inducing plant’s name into the search box at the top of the app, and you’ll be able to see dozens of photos taken by app users around the country (arranged by leaves, flowers, berries, and bark). An included Wikipedia link gives you even more information about what you’re looking at, in case you wanted to know that poison sumac is also known as “thunderwood,” for example.
Once you’re familiar with the basic baddies to avoid, the app can also be a fun diversion for camping trips and family outings all summer long. The camera feature lets kids and curious adults snap a photo of a mystery plant, submit it, and (usually) get results that identify the flora.
QSun makes a wearable tracker that can monitor your sun exposure. But if you’re only an occasional sun worshipper, or if you’d rather spend $149 on something else this summer (piña coladas anyone?), you can still benefit from the company’s tech by downloading this app.
Launch the app and enter your location. You’ll get an easy-to-read wheel graphic that shows you the peak times for getting a sunburn, as well as the UV index. You can also create an account and fill out the profile that asks for basic information about your skin type (it helps you choose), as well as your age, height and weight. Once you tap the “Track Sun Exposure” button, the app will start a countdown that gives you an idea of when you’ll begin to burn.
The app comes with a barcode scanner that you can use to get more information on the effectiveness of sunscreens you’ve purchased (or are looking to buy). A built-in calculator tells you how much you should apply, and the app can even remind you when it’s time to reapply so you don’t fry.
Summer should be a carefree time, but it never hurts to have someone watching your back if you’re taking on some riskier tasks: kayaking by yourself, hiking through an unknown area, camping in a bear cave, et cetera.
The bSafe app lets you create a network of people (known as “guardians, who also must use the app), who you can immediately reach with one tap of a big “SOS” button.
While the app is quite pricey at $1.99 per week, it is free to install if you want to become part of a friend’s support network. Trigger the SOS function—by tapping or by a voice command—and everyone in your network gets an alert that you need help. The app also starts live-streaming from your phone’s camera to everyone in your network, so they can get a better idea of what’s going on.
The app’s “Follow Me” feature allows your guardians to watch your progress on a map if you are walking somewhere you feel unsafe. There’s also a timer feature that lets you set a period of time in which the alarm will go off unless you disable it. You can also use the app’s “I’m Here” feature to tell everyone in your network that you’ve arrived somewhere safely.
bSafe is definitely the most costly app on this list, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of solo summertime traveling, the peace of mind could be worth it—at least for the week you’re gone.
Offline Survival Manual (Android)
Did you know that a trench line down the center of your tongue is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration? Or that some plants become toxic only after wilting?
You’ll be able to look these facts up, and more, once you grab the Offline Survival Manual app for your Android device. While it’s not as intuitive or quick to use as the Red Cross app, it has the advantage of not requiring a wifi or cellular connection. If your summer vacation plans involve camping or travel in remote locations, this app could definitely come in handy.
In addition to providing advice for emergency situations, Offline Survival Manual also makes for fascinating reading—turn yourself into an amateur survivalist while you’re sitting in your tent, waiting for a storm (or bear) to pass.
Herbal Home Remedies and Natural Cures (Android)
If you prefer to heal yourself with supplies from the health food store instead of the drugstore, this app is a great companion. Tapping on the “Herbal Treatements” section takes you to a searchable alphabetized list of common health issues. Pull up an ailment to see a detailed description of potential natural cures.
For example, a poultice of coleus leaves can help ease the pain of a sprain, vinegar can help soothe the site of a bee sting, and guava leaves (if you can find them) can calm down a sunburn. While Herbal Home Remedies and Natural Cures isn’t as grounded in medical science as the Red Cross app, it’s nice to have alternatives to try if you’re low on options somewhere in the wilderness.
This list ends where it began—with the American Red Cross, because they’re the best for helping people get prepared for (and recover from) a variety of activities and disasters. The app is designed to accompany the Red Cross’ swim lesson program, but it offers a wide variety of water-safety tips that anyone can find useful.
Unless you’re using the app to track your child’s progress through a Red Cross swimming program, you’ll want to skip the first screen and go directly to the section on safety. Here, you’ll be able to browse through drowning and accident-prevention tips, and you’ll also be able to learn how to respond to water accidents. You get valuable information about how to choose and use life jackets, and you can find out where most drowning accidents happen based on the age of the children involved in water-based activities.
As with the First Aid app, the Swim app’s quizzes provide a fun way to engage kids in common-sense safety ideas.