Continuing Friday’s review of free apps that help people with allergies, today I’m reviewing some of the apps I found that might help people with chemical and contact allergies, although many are also helpful for people who like to live in less chemically-polluted home environments.
Eczema Tracker (http://eczematracker.com/) [ ] [Android – Coming Soon]
My Rating: 2/5
This app appears to function only for the United States, but if you live in the United States, this should not be an issue…or so I thought. Location-based services are inoperative for me. I tried turning on location services and entering a US zip code, but neither brought up any information. I’m not sure if a US-based user would fare better. One of the two main useful functions of this app is the allergy tracker, whereby common allergens (quite limited options) are listed and able to be selected based on whether you have had contact with them during the day. There is also space to add additional allergens, but these are limited to 11 characters, severely limiting the ability to track chemical allergens. Next, the user selects their level of allergy symptoms that day on a subjective scale and is able to type additional notes. Presumably over time one can track their exposure to allergens and their symptoms to try to tie the two together, as symptoms can take a few days to develop after exposure, depending on the allergy. The other semi-useful feature of this app is health information. Based on the type of allergies to which you are typically susceptible (environmental, food, etc.), the app will tell you the most common causes of allergy symptoms for that type of allergy, along with linking to information about patch testing and avoidance measures.
Ultimately, the information here, although useful, is very basic and no more helpful than a quick internet search.
My Rating: 3/5
This app allows a patient-based first check of drug side effects and interactions. Medications are searchable by brand name, generic name, or condition treated. On each drug page is listed the category or class of drug, indications, dosages and adjustments, precautions, rates of the most common side effects, drug interactions, forms available (pill, oral suspension, capsule, etc), and links to a bit more information online. The Med Check feature allows for multiple drugs to be entered to check for interactions. The Resources section directly accesses online content such as a pill identification tool, symptom checker, and doctor search, as well as to other MedlinePlus and Drugs.com features. Finally, creating a profile in MedBox allows you to track your own medication history, dosages, and usage, and to create reminders to take these medications.
The app itself has not been updated since 2014, which raises a red flag for its continued use and support. All in all, the tools may be helpful to some, but without information about all of the ingredients in drugs, it is unlikely to be particularly helpful for an allergy sufferer any more than any other user.
Think Dirty (http://www.thinkdirtyapp.com/) [iOS] [Android – Pre Release]
My Rating: 4/5
This app allows on-the-go access to a database vetting the ingredients in Canadian and American cosmetic products, as well as the ability to catalogue the products you currently use and look up similar products that might be healthier. I was unable to find this app through the Apple App store directly, but the Google Chrome app search allowed me to access it. The biggest benefit to this app is the quick and simple access to a great database of chemical ingredient lists for consumer body care products. Searching manually or scanning the bar code on a product brings up a 0-10 rating on the safety of the chemicals contained within it, as well as an ingredient list with individual ingredients ranked for safety. Tapping on an ingredient brings up a list of alternate names, why it’s used in products, and safety concerns specific to that ingredient so that you can review for yourself whether the ingredient meets your standards based on your level of comfort. Once scanned, you can add the product to a personal list so that you can easily find it in the future. If the product does not scan (many of the small brand products or strictly Canadian products have this issue), you can submit the product for addition to the database.
This app is a great place to start while identifying products to eliminate in your home or shopping for safe products. One should note that product ingredients change frequently, so you should always compare the ingredient list in the app to the list on the package to make sure there are no errors or omissions. One thing I would love to see in this app is the ability to flag specific ingredients so that products can be red-flagged by the app if they contain a specific chemical allergen. Allergens aren’t always considered toxic (so they may have a relatively safe rating), and this would make things simpler for allergy sufferers. I would also like to see the ability to add into your own lists products that are not yet in the system (at the same time as submitting them for review). This would allow one to better keep track of products in the home and products they want to buy later. Despite the smaller database, the products it does contain are beautifully and thoroughly covered. Overall, a solid app, and one that I will be keeping for use in stores.
My Rating: 3/5
This app is of a similar style as Think Dirty, but instead of listing the safety of individual chemicals, it is focused on allergens specifically. The app is mainly geared towards Canada and the US, and contains over 15,000 products, considerably fewer than the 80,000 items Think Dirty claims to have reviewed. The benefit to this database, however, is that it contains not just body care products but also home cleaning products. The user scans the product bar code or enters the product name into the search bar, and…most of the time the product is not yet reviewed and the app suggests you submit the item for future review. When the product does come up, it lists which common allergens it doesn’t contain and the known product ingredients. Touching an individual ingredient brings up a list of alternate names and related ingredients for the ingredient in question. The downside here is apparent, as only top allergens are checked. The product is labelled x% top allergen free, which could be misleading for people who need to avoid ingredients that are not top allergens and ingredients that contain incidental allergens within them or included through their processing. Product selection for the database thus far seems to be products that are low in top allergens, though, which may be helpful for people.
This app is not particularly helpful for me, since a flag of “Methyl/Chloromethylisothiazolinone free” doesn’t mean the product is free of cellulose or microcrystalline cellulose, which can contain isothiazolinones, and some of my other allergens aren’t considered “top allergens.” Overall, I won’t be keeping this app. Its database is far too limiting, saving items is very basic, and it does not effectively check for my allergens any better than would a list of ingredients.
My Rating: 4/5
This app provides direct access to both the SkinDeep database and the Food Scores database. This means that the app provides information for an enormous number of both body care products and food products. As with the other good databases, products can be searched by either scanning or manually entering the product or company name. Body care products are scored on a scale from red to green, with individual ingredients being given a rating from zero to ten. No additional information is provided about the product ingredients from the product page. Ingredients cannot be searched individually. When food products are searched, the Food Scores database provides ratings from red to green for ingredient, nutrition, and processing concerns, and rates the product as a whole on the same scale. An ingredient list is not provided, though ingredients that Food Scores specifically chooses to call out as a possible concern are listed. The interface itself is clean, and favourites can be starred for later viewing.
Overall, this app has access to the most products, but I feel it is missing some of the most important things for allergy sufferers, such as further information about and more names for the body care product ingredients, and ingredient lists for food products. Its comprehensive nature makes it good to have around, but I feel Think Dirty’s app is far more useful for allergy sufferers.
My Rating: 3/5
GoodGuide is another app the focuses on chemical safety of ingredients in consumer body care and home care products, but with a twist. Instead of rating products only on safety, the creators have also rated products for their level of environmentally friendliness and the level of social consciousness of their manufacturing companies. All three factors are weighted equally in the zero to ten ranking scale of the product, meaning that very safe products may have a worse ranking than less safe products with more socially conscious manufacturers. Another odd thing is that unlike the other chemical databases reviewed here, products with higher scores are ranked better than those with low scores. Below the scoring, (sparse) reasons for the rankings and an ingredient list are available. Ingredients with check marks beside them are considered health concerns, and you can touch the ingredient to bring up safe use exceptions and health concerns. Favourite products can be bookmarked for later viewing.
This database is good for environmentally- and socially-conscious individuals who are capable of being willing to balance those factors with health concerns. Individuals for whom health is the biggest concern may have a hard time navigating the browsing features of the interface due to the blended scoring methods. The chemical information is good, but not quite as thorough as Think Dirty’s.
Have you tried any of these apps? What did you think? Have you found other useful apps for people with chemical allergies? Comment below.