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Fitbit Force causing allergic reactions for some users

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It appears that some users are experiencing compatibility issues with the a Fitbit Force activity tracker (see disclosure), in the form of an allergic reaction. Reports of skin irritation have been popping up in various places online, on television, and even on Fitbit’s own forums. Fitbit has acknowledged the problem and is offering a refund or replacement device for affected users.

The Consumerist tells the story of its reader Kevin, who began to notice irritation after wearing the Fitbit Force for over a month. He took photos of the rash over time (you can see them over on Consumerist, but be warned, they’re kind of gross), before ultimately seeking medical attention. He was told he had contact dermatitis, which, according to Mayo Clinic, is “a kind of skin inflammation that occurs when substances touching your skin cause irritation or an allergic reaction.”

Kevin’s case isn’t the only one. ABC News reported on a number of other users that have had an allergic reaction after wearing the band. To its credit, Fitbit quickly addressed the problem, releasing the following statement:

We are aware that some of our customers have reported a skin irritation from wearing their Force device. We conduct testing in order to satisfy a variety of internationally accepted standards relating to the safety of the materials in our devices. Fitbit wristbands are made of an elastomer material similar to many sports watches and do not contain latex. The Fitbit Force clasps and casing are made with a surgical-grade stainless steel, which is commonly used in watches, jewelry and other products in contact with the skin.

As with any jewelry or watch, numerous factors could cause a skin irritation, such as nickel sensitivity (surgical stainless steel is an alloy containing traces of nickel), reactions to bacteria that can accumulate in wristbands, or a sensitivity to the material of the band elastomer.

However, our customers are our top priority, so we already have been taking steps to make this right with any customers who feel that they have an allergy related to their Fitbit device including offering a refund or a choice of a replacement tracker. Fitbit will handle all shipping costs and will provide a refund in any difference in price.

Fitbit does have other trackers, like the One and the Zip, that can be attached to your clothing, which should help avoid this problem. For what it’s worth, I’ve been wearing a Fitbit Force for over a month now, and I haven’t experienced any irritation. There are some exposed metal bits on the back of the band, where it touches your wrist, so I wonder if Fitbit can just cover this with more rubber for future models. And it looks like this might happen. Fitbit just sent me an updated statement:

We are looking into reports from a very limited number of Fitbit Force users who have been experiencing skin irritation, possibly as a result of an allergy to nickel, an element of surgical-grade stainless steel used in the device.

We suggest that consumers experiencing any irritation discontinue using the product and contact Fitbit at [email protected] if they have additional questions. Customers may also contact Fitbit for an immediate refund or replacement with a different Fitbit product.

We are sorry that even a few consumers have experienced these problems and assure you that we are looking at ways to modify the product so that anyone can wear the Fitbit Force comfortably. We will continue to update our customers with the latest information.

Potential allergic reaction aside, I still think the Force is one of the best activity trackers available. But if you’re the type with sensitive skin (especially to nickel), you might want to steer clear. And if you’ve been wearing one, and you’ve noticed any sort of irritation, you might want to think about contacting Fitbit.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

This post was updated at 1:50pm with an additional statement from Fitbit.

13 Responses to “Fitbit Force causing allergic reactions for some users”

  1. Jan Roberts

    I had been wearing the Force for a couple of weeks and I’ve observed that my wrist had some red spots like rashes. I really like wearing the Force because it had some positive effects on me or maybe it was just Placebo effect but the skin allergy that grew on my wrist really turned me down. If you have been suffering from allergies like me, try visiting this site and learn more about allergies.

  2. Giora Sluzky

    I’ve ordered my Fitbit Force directly from Fitbit US website. It took like 2 months to develop the very bad irritation. I’m normally not allergic person, so this kind of steel composition they used in Fitbit Force should be very allergenic one.

  3. I wore my force for about 6 weeks with no issues then all of a sudden noticed itching. Took it off and saw a small rash. Within the next week (with the force still off) the rash got larger and more severe (small blisters, very red skin). I’ve had poison sumac before and this rash looks similar.

    It’s been about 1 1/2 weeks since I took it off and I still have a nasty red scaly spot on my arm (below where the display was located). I’ve been putting Benadryl lotion on it and it does help with the itching, but the rash is in no hurry to diminish.

    The author of this article compliments FitBit for how they are handling this. I disagree. On their website there is very little information displayed (without digging through forums), the email response I received from them did not mention nickel allergies as a potential cause, etc. It feels to me like they are trying to downplay the issue and cover it up as much as possible. From the posts the author shared above, it sounds like they have a good idea of what is causing the issue but that information is not displayed on their website. Instead it still has some generic “we’re looking into it” type of message.

  4. I too have a rash and it hasn’t cleared after two weeks of not wearing my force. I had only had it a month when it started irritating me. Very sad I did like it a lot. Sadly won’t be wanting another one and hopefully they’ll refund me.

  5. paulette gramse

    Darn it! I too am having this issue with the Force. I love my FitBit force. In order to see if it would help, I added tape to the back of the watch face. I stopped wearing the piece for 1 week to let the rash clear up, it took only 24 hours to come back. Bummer! THe instant gratification is so fun!

  6. I wore the Flex for 6 months (including throughout the hot, humid summer) and never had a problem. Within about 6 weeks of switching to the Force, I developed a rash. It is in the spot right above where the recharging cord plugs in. Fitbit has been really great about dealing with the issue (offering a replacement or a refund) but I’m disappointed because I love the digital display on the Force. Here’s hoping they are able to modify the design in the future.

  7. heidi trautwein

    I am one who has a rash on both wrist and have had the fitbit for almost a month and stopped wearing it about 2 weeks ago but tge rash is nit realky subsiding! kind of upset because I really liked the force