Alexa can remind you to take your dinner out of the oven, play your favorite songs without you having to lift a finger, and tell you whether it’s going to rain today — and now she can make you an appointment to donate your blood and teach you life-saving first aid tips, too.
Thanks to the American Red Cross, those with an Alexa-enabled device can now use skills to schedule blood donation, get first aid information, and even get notifications about an approaching hurricane.
There are tons of great reasons to donate your blood — in fact, someone needs blood in the U.S. every two seconds, according to the Red Cross. Typically, people who need blood have lost a large amount during major surgery or a serious injury, or they have an illness like leukemia or kidney disease that can result in anemia.
"Supporting the nation’s blood supply and helping keep people safe are among our top priorities, and we are constantly looking to make it easier to share this lifesaving information," said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross, in an April 16 press release. "Now, we’re using innovation and voice technology to reach a broader group of Americans with these new skills for Alexa."
How to add the Red Cross Alexa skills
Want to try it out? You can enable Alexa skills in several ways. The easiest is to just ask Alexa to do it for you. Depending on the Red Cross skill you want to enable, you can say the following:
- “Alexa, enable Red Cross Blood.”
- “Alexa, enable First Aid by American Red Cross.”
- “Alexa, enable Hurricane Alerts by the American Red Cross.”
Or you can open your Amazon Alexa app and, under Skills, search for “Red Cross.” Then you should see all the available skills and pick the ones you want. When you enable the Donate Blood skill, you’ll be prompted to link to your Red Cross account or create one if you don’t have one.
Once you enable the skills, you’re ready to roll. All you have to say is “Alexa, open Red Cross Blood skill,” or whichever skill you want to use. (I tested it out myself on my Echo Dot — it was pretty easy.)
Then, you can ask questions like, “Alexa, can you find me a blood drive?” Alexa will then locate upcoming blood drives in your area and help you make an appointment. You can also have her remind you when your appointment is coming up, or use Alexa to cancel or reschedule. Handy!
Get first aid tips when you need them
The First Aid skill is another useful new Red Cross Alexa skill that can teach you first aid dos and don’ts, along with emergency prep tips. The first time you open the app, Alexa will give you a short tutorial on how to use the skill (and give you a disclaimer that this skill is meant to be educational, not to provide medical advice or diagnosis). But from there, it’s simple.
For example, did your child just get stung by a bee? Ask, “Alexa, how do I treat a bee sting?” She’ll walk you through it.
It can also teach you how to react in serious health emergencies (“Alexa, how do I perform CPR?”).
You can get more info on these skills on the Red Cross website.
Other ways Alexa can help you stay healthy
Beyond the Red Cross skills, there are tons of ways Amazon’s Alexa can keep you on track with your health goals. Here are some Alexa recommended to me herself when I asked her:
- Mediation: Feeling stressed? Ask Alexa to help you meditate. She’ll give you several options, including a simple timer that will play soothing forest sounds while you meditate or guided meditation options. You can also use the popular meditation app Headspace by asking, “Alexa, use Headspace.”
- Guided workouts: Want to get in a quick workout? Ask Alexa to start “seven-minute workout.” She’ll talk you through how she’ll help you improve your mood, core strength, endurance, and more. She’ll ask you a few questions to set up, like what level of activity you want to do (low impact, standard, or advanced) and what kind of music you want during your workout. Then you’ll get started, and she’ll walk you through the steps of the workout. You can pause at any time or ask for help. Pretty cool.
- Connect to your Fitbit: Have a Fitbit? You can connect it to your Alexa device and easily check in throughout the day to see how you’re doing with your fitness goals.
You can search all the available Alexa skills related to health and fitness on the Amazon website.