If your child suffers anaphylaxis, don’t you need to be one of the first to know?
Introducing the Alert 5 smart phone app
I have recently received details of Alert 5, which is a new app that could prove invaluable in the event of an anaphylaxis emergency.
What does the app do?
With a single tap, the app can be used to tell up to 5 people:
- That the allergic person has had a severe reaction.
- The exact location on a map of the person suffering anaphylaxis.
If the alert is being sent to:
- A mobile, then a text message is sent, explaining the sender is having a reaction. The message includes a 20 character URL, which links to a detailed map pinpointing the sender’s exact location.
- A landline, the text message is read out.
An allergic child with their own mobile phone can therefore alert their parents, brother, sister etc that they are experiencing a reaction.
The stored numbers are easy to amend, so you can set different numbers for different times of the day. You might, for example, include the school office number during school hours, but change this to something different at weekends.
Recipients need to know the drill
For the system to work well, the key is that the recipients of the message know:
- That the alert will only be sent in the case of an emergency.
- The agreed plan of action when an alert is received. This would differ from family to family. For example, it might be down to the parents to head off immediately to find the child. The other 3 recipients might check that the parents have received the message safely and be on hand to help with other children.
Handy for parents’ phones too
The app could also be useful for parents to download onto their own phones too. My son, at 4, is (I hope) some way off demanding an iPhone. However, by having the app installed on my mobile I can let my partner and, for example, his grandmothers know that he has had a reaction.
When my son had his second anaphylactic reaction, my sole focus was on administering the EpiPen, giving his inhaler and anti-histamine and keeping him calm. I didn’t have the time or the brain space, whilst in the thick of it, to phone my partner (much less other family members) to let everyone know what had happened. Luckily, on that occasion, a friend was there to make the calls. However, had I been by myself and subscribed to Alert 5, I could have tapped my phone and sent out the distress signal. Ian would have known to come and find us. D’s grandmothers would be alerted to the fact he has had a severe reaction. They could double check that Ian had received the alert and could, for example, be getting ready to head over to our house.
The information screen
The app also allows the sender to press a button to display an information page on your phone, or iPad etc, which would let those around you know what they can do to help if you are too unwell to explain. For an allergic child, the information screen could detail the child’s allergies and let readers know where their EpiPen can be found.
Key message: (1) adrenaline (2) call 999 THEN (3) use app
My main concern when I heard about the app was that someone might waste valuable time in an anaphylaxis emergency rummaging for their phone, when what they need to do first is administer adrenaline and dial 999. When I put this to one of the app’s founders, Lee Henderson, himself a former fireman, he agreed completely: for anaphylaxis emergencies the app is an additional step for AFTER adrenaline has been given and an ambulance called. What the app does is to provide added peace of mind.
How Alert 5 could work in an anaphylaxis emergency
It’s easy to imagine scenarios where the app would come into its own:
- Your child is at the park with friends when s/he has anaphylaxis. The EpiPen is given, the ambulance is called and the friend presses the help button so you can get to the scene.
- Your secondary school aged child is at the far side of the school playing field. They have a reaction: hopefully they have their EpiPen with them. If not, if the staff room number was stored in Alert 5, valuable minutes could be saved by pressing the button for help.
- Your teenager is on a night out. It won’t remove your worry but at least you know they have a simple way of telling you if they have a reaction.
How the technology might evolve in future…
Calling an ambulance at the touch of a screen
I understand that Alert 5 are talking to police and ambulance services about a direct link between the app and the emergency services. If this development goes ahead, the alert button would both call an ambulance and let your 5 emergency contacts know.
Solving the problem of a locked phone
Another concern I had was if the child’s phone was lockable. Would their friends need to know their pin to be able to send the alert? Was there any way the app could override the locking, so someone else could summons help?
Whilst the company make a special “defender phone” which has an emergency button to override the phone’s lock, this product is more suitable for companies to buy for their lone workers, and likely too expensive for individuals. However, Alert 5 are looking at the issue of locked phones to see whether there is a way the app could override the lock with a combination of button pushes. For Android phones, they are also seeing whether there could be a means of overriding the lock if it is shaken for three seconds. I understand that if these upgrades do take place in future, then Alert 5 subscribers will get the benefit of them within their £4.99 pa subscription.
How much is Alert 5 and where can I get it?
For me, provided everyone understands it is an action to take AFTER adrenaline has been administered and the ambulance is on its way, £4.99 a year for an added layer of reassurance is well worth it.