Hypochondriac's Dream: Sickweather App Tells You Where Germs Lurk Near You
As a mom, I find it rude when fellow moms don’t tell me their kids are sick until it’s too late, until after their mini "ick" factories have already infected my children.
“Hey, so glad you guys could make it to our house. Sorry, Joey has Strep throat. I’m not sure if he’s still contagious. Oh, look, he’s armwrestling your daughter. Cute!” Then booger-encrusted Joey sneezes on my girl and, sure enough, she complains of a sore, mucous chute of a throat a day later. How considerate, friend.
Luckily for proactive (translation: paranoid) mamas like me (don’t judge -- I’m far from alone here, you know who you are), now there’s a nifty free iPhone app that helps germaphobes steer clear of other people’s gnarly germs, and, hopefully their kids’, too.
It’s called Sickweather, and as its name suggests, the mama’s (and papa’s or anyone’s) little GPS helper works a bit like Doppler radar. It uses a clever, “patent-pending” algorithm to scan your social media “skies” for “indicators of illness, allowing you to check for the chance of sickness as easily as you can check for the chance of rain.”
Once you download the app and, of course, sign in using your social media credentials, Sickweather goes to work snooping around your nearby (within 25 miles of your location) Facebook and Twitter friends’ and followers’ status updates and tweets for sickness-related words and phrases.
Thankfully Sickweather is smart enough to weed out reports of “Bieber Fever” and “sick beats at the club last night.” Instead, it gloms onto status (over)shares that seem to, well, sort of, kind of legitimately smack of sick, more like “My daughter is a walking chicken pock.” “Nooo! Not pinkeye again!” and “Now I know what they mean by Montezuma’s revenge.”
The hypochondriac’s dream (or nightmare?) ad-supported app then culls the generally unwell, real-time geo data and packages it all together neatly for you on a map. You’ll be able to see which theoretically contaminated areas in your neck of the woods to steer clear of based on the status updates of your sick friends and acquaintances.
Related: Angry at Work? Have a Snack.
There’s one huge flaw in Sickweather’s system, though: You can’t see exactly who in your social network and in your 25-mile area is sick. You can only see where their socially reporting sickness from, right down to the street level. You can even get text alerts when you’re physically approaching a sick zone.
Sickweather’s CEO Graham Dodge told us today that a beta version on the app’s website allows users to drill down to which of their friends is talking about being sick on Facebook, but it didn’t work for me when I tried it. “It’s very rough right now, Dodge said, “but will be refined for a future version of the app.”
Still, with street-level map identification, you’ll probably have a good idea of who to avoid like the plague…. or to start a pot of chicken soup for, because you’re a good friend like that. There’s also a social cool feature that allows you to wish your ill friends well and recommend your favorite home remedies.
You can also search Sickweather’s Illness Maps by sickness families, including “Respiratory,” “Gastrointestinal,” “Environmental” and “childhood.” If you really want to dig in, you can whittle down your sick search to specific illnesses, like norovirus, pneumonia, whooping cough, hand foot and mouth disease, Man flu (whatever that is), and several more anxiety- and antibacterial soap-inspiring winners.
Or, on the flip side, you can narc on yourself when you’re sick. Sickweather will gladly help you warn your local Twitter and Facebook friends that you're under the weather, or -- hint, hint, parents -- that your kids aren’t well enough for a playdate.
The snarky, righteous mom in me likes the anonymous tip feature, which lets users add sickness reports to the map. Don’t ask me why, but I think more parents in my local school district should report lice outbreaks so I know when not to send my kids to school. (Shouldn’t there already be an app for that. LiceNarc? It should come with an iPhone attachment that zaps the buggers dead upon detection.)
Now that you know about Sickweather, you might want to share the app with your friends and loved ones, not your germs.
Oh, and heads up, parent friends, my daughter is home sick today with a hacking cough and, no, I didn’t whine about it on Facebook or Twitter. I don’t need to. If you call me to see if she can play today, I’ll do the right thing and politely decline. I wouldn’t want to get your kids sick.
If you’re not into downloading the anti-virus app on your iPhone, as of this month, Sickweather is available as a Facebook app. Bonus: It even sends email alerts to people who still check their email.
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.