Farewell Fitbit: Falling victim to the Force rash

me with bandages

I’d been told to expect to be injured at least once while training for my first marathon. What I didn’t expect is for that injury to be to my wrists.

I first heard reports that some Fitbit Force users had developed a rash some weeks ago. Not long after, I noticed a little redness under my own, but I put it down to being a bit hot and sweaty, and switched it over to my other hand.

Over the weekend I went to Abu Dhabi. The sunshine – which has been in short supply at home lately – made the rash far worse and my travelling partner (my mum) said “you’ve got a terrible burn on your wrists. How did you do that?”.

fitbit rash

The rash from my Fitbit

Looking at the bright red marks, I had to admit it was actually hurting me. I really love my Fitbit Force – I’ve blogged about it on here twice to say how much I like it – but reluctantly, it’s time to stop using it.

Days after taking my Force off, the rash still seemed to be getting worse, so I called my GP, who advised me to go to the Minor Injuries clinic and get it looked at.

So that’s how I ended up at St Bart’s Hospital with what might be their first case of a quantified self injury.

They diagnosed contact dermatitis, but couldn’t rule out some kind of chemical burn. Fitbit themselves have said a tiny proportion of users are experiencing an allergic reaction to the nickel in the surgical-grade steel in the device. I find this hard to believe as I’ve been wearing a lower-grade steel navel ring (i.e. with nickel) for 14 years without any problems.

Over on the Fitbit Community (registration needed to view), users are discussing the possibility that it’s a reaction to the adhesive, the battery, or something else, causing a burn-like reaction that’s not consistent with a simple metal allergy.

Last week, after a steady drip-drip of stories of users developing rashes in the media, Fitbit finally admitted there is a major problem with the Force and issued a product recall. I’ve filed a case with them, but as it was never sold outside the US and Canada they haven’t worked out how to manage returns for Force owners in other countries. I’m still waiting to hear back from them.

The numbers of users reporting a reaction seems to be growing steadily. One former user has created a spreadsheet of affected people and their onset period. With over 700 cases tracked so far – and most of those affected only seeing symptoms after weeks or months wearing the device – this looks set to be a growing embarrassment for FitBit.

As for me, I’ll be running without data until I can find a new tracker.

2 comments

  • Tesco were doing discounts on the previous fitbit wrist device and the Jawbone Up (?), so they might be worth a look for a temporary replacement.

    I hope Fitbit sort the Force out as I was considering one, especially as they had just added caller id display to its functionality.

    • I bought my husband an UP for his birthday. He loves it – but I went for the Force because it had a display (the caller ID feature still hasn’t been delivered though – and I guess it won’t be now).

      I’m eyeing up the Garmin Vivofit, which has a display, but it’s not out in the UK yet.

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