Smart Home

Alexa can help keep you healthy this flu season—here’s how

Stay informed during flu season with the help of your Echo.

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Smart speakers are becoming more and more common inside of homes, offering a convenient way to get the weather, manage your calendar, and answer any questions you may have. But this year, your Amazon Echo can also help you prepare for the upcoming flu season. Conceptualized and developed by Seattle Children’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, the Flu Doctor skill provides a convenient way to educate yourself (and your family) about the flu vaccine.

“We know that search is increasingly going to be voice-enabled and we know increasingly more and more of us are incorporating smart speakers into our lives,” Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, general pediatrician and Chief of Digital Innovation at Seattle Children's Hospital, tells Reviewed. “The benefit of Flu Doctor is to learn more about the flu in your home, in a way that maybe you hadn’t before using Alexa.”

The Flu Doctor skill is a helpful tool for anyone looking for up-to-date information about the flu shot and the illness itself. Currently, the skill is available on all Alexa-enabled devices like our favorite Echo, the Echo (second generation).

To enable the skill, open the Amazon Alexa app, available for download on iOS and Android devices. From there, navigate to the Skills & Games section and search for Flu Doctor. Make sure to click “Enable Skill” to use it with your Echo.

How to use Flu Doctor

How to use flu doctor
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

The Flu Doctor skill can answer your questions about the illness, but you'll need to enable it first using the Amazon Alexa app.

Wondering where to get your flu shot? Or if you even need one? The Flu Doctor skill can answer all of those questions and educate you about the flu—just ask Alexa. To begin learning about the flu vaccine, you’ll need to ask Alexa to “open Flu Doctor” first.

Cases of the flu tend to rise in October and peak anytime from December to February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so you may have a few general questions about the vaccine that Alexa can answer. After opening the Flu Doctor skill, you can inquire about certain flu-related topics by saying, “Hey Alexa, how effective is the flu shot?” or “Hey Alexa, is the flu vaccine safe with allergies?” to learn more.

If you’re wondering whether or not you need to get the flu shot, Alexa can help with that, too. To find out say, “Hey Alexa, who needs the flu vaccine?” The CDC recommends the flu shot for at-risk groups including adults ages 65 and up, children younger than five years old, particularly ages 2 and under, and their caregivers.

Thoughtfully designed, the Flu Doctor skill can also give parents and caregivers advice on how to help children who may be fearful of getting the shot because of needles. To get these tips, say, “Alexa, how can I help if my child is afraid of needles?”

Find out where to get your flu shot

Where to get flu shot
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Your Alexa-enabled speaker can help you find a nearby location offering the flu shot.

Not sure where to get your flu shot this year? Alexa can assist with that, too. Before you can use this feature, you must allow the skill to access the full address that’s already linked to your Echo speakers. You will be prompted to approve (or disapprove) the permission when you enable the skill within the Alexa app.

“If Alexa knows where you live, then we can help connect you with places where you can call and see if they can get the flu vaccination,” says Swanson. “It’s all about convenience.”

If approved, you can say, “Alexa, where can I get the flu vaccine?” She’ll recommend that you call your primary care doctor or pediatrician to make an appointment, but she’ll also provide three of the nearest locations to your home where you can get a flu shot, including the full name and address of the location.

The skill will also provide updates throughout the season about flu activity levels, how well the vaccine is working, and additional tips to protect you and your family from the flu. Although it was developed by doctors, the skill is not a substitute for professional medical advice and is solely for educational purposes. You can learn additional information about the upcoming flu season and the flu vaccine by talking to your primary care doctor.