There are two health issues many Mid-Atlantic residents fret about each summer: sunburn and Lyme disease. It turns out that smartphones, which most people have at hand even while on the beach or in the woods, can be helpful in amplifying or allaying those concerns.
The American Lyme Disease Foundation’s app, called, appropriately if not imaginatively, Lyme Disease (iOS, free), is a good resource to have in your pocket. It has photos of deer ticks at the larval, nymph and adult stages; users can tap on each photo to open a window that shows the actual size of the tick. Should you be unlucky enough to spot one on your skin, it has a video that shows you how to remove a tick. Should you be even more unlucky and not notice a tick, it includes photos of what the subsequent rash looks like (it’s not always in the form of a target). But perhaps best of all, it has a feature that will show you whether ticks are rare, common or abundant at your GPS-indicated location (you can also check other areas by moving a pin around the map). Should you find yourself in say, southern Florida, where mosquitoes seem to exist at plaguelike levels, you’ll easily be able to learn that deer ticks are rare there and relax a little.
That would leave the sun to worry about. There are apps that will tell you the day’s UV index (many weather apps do this as well), such as Ultraviolet — UV Index by Robocat (iOS, free) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s SunWise UV Index (iOS and Android, free). There are apps that will remind you when to apply sunscreen, such as Coppertone’s MyUVAlert (iOS, free) and Nevus (iOS and Android, lei11.93). There are apps that purport to provide guidelines for tanning safely, though dermatologists will likely tell you there is no such thing. There are even apps that will paint photos of you with a fake tan so you don’t have to risk melanoma.
Of all of these, perhaps the wonkiest is the Sun Exposure Reference App (iOS,lei3.95) from Wolfram Group, which specializes in computational apps (think: math, science and engineering, as well as topics such as gaming odds and stock trading — or are those last two the same?). Sun Exposure offers you a lot of information: the UV forecast, the sun position, the time of sunrise and sunset. Most helpfully, it evaluates how long you’ll have until you burn, based on a variety of factors that you input yourself, including your skin type, location, the time and what level of SPF protection you are using. I used it successfully in Florida. Then, on a trip to New England, I made a spur-of-the-moment visit to a beach — and realized I’d forgotten sunscreen. I pulled out my phone, plugged in all the factors and learned I could stay out for about 90 minutes without risking showing up to the family wedding looking as if I’d already partaken of the bar. My only complaint: It’s really difficult to read the information in the sun.