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Mobile Health Apps: Choosing Wisely

Mobile Health Apps: Choosing Wisely

A barky cough, a blotchy rash, a sudden fever — when kids develop symptoms like these, many parents no longer just call their pediatrician for help and advice. Many also look for health information online. And, more and more, their sleuthing is done via smartphones and tablets, which has given rise to health-specific apps.

There’s a lot to like about these convenient, user-friendly, often free tools. You can keep a BMI calculator at your fingertips, download an app that helps you stay with your exercise program, or look up healthy recipes as you grocery shop.

And of course, this kind of access and convenience can really make life easier for parents. Want to know if there are any lice outbreaks in your area? How about an easy way to track daily allergy reports? What are the signs of seasonal allergies? What immunizations do kids need and when? There are apps for that — and a whole lot more!

But there can be downsides, too. It’s fairly simple to design and release a health-related app that seems “official” — but did that prescription drugs informational app come from medical experts, a pharmaceutical company, an ad agency, or an ill-informed (if well-intentioned) consumer?

It’s important for parents to take note of where this portable health information is coming from. Just as you would vet a website to make sure it’s run by reputable health experts, make sure your apps are credible, accurate, and up to date.

But most important — no app (or website) is a substitute for a doctor’s advice. Any time your child has symptoms of a medical condition or problem, contact your health care provider. And even when your kids are well, it’s your doctor who you’ll work with to keep them on track for checkups, immunizations, and growth milestones.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: December 2011