Fitbit Force and Contact Dermatitis


Fitbit is recalling the Force, a wristband exercise tracker that has been growing in popularity in recent months. A certain number of user complaints convinced the company to recall the device this week.  The reason for the Fitbit Force recall is allegedly due to allergic reaction and contact dermatitis.

CEO and co-founder, James Park, recently released a statement.  He reports the company, which was formed in 2007, was intended to help people live more active lives. Force users, unfortunately, have recently complained of skin irritation (1.7 percent of users), Park says they have initiated an investigation by medical experts.  Independent test results have not revealed to the company any issues with the battery or electrical components.  Test results have conclude, however, that it is likely customers are experiencing an allergic reaction.

Contact dermatitis is described by the Mayo Clinic to be a form of skin inflammation when substances touch the skin causing irritation or an allergic reaction.  The result is a red and itchy rash, it is not contagious or life-threatening, but can be uncomfortable.  Everyday products that can cause the problem include soaps, cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry, or plants like poison ivy.  Treatment consists of identifying the cause, and adjusting daily life to avoid it.  The rash usually resolves within two to four weeks.

The CEO of Fitbit also reports that a nickel substance in the Force band could be causing the contact dermatitis, and the steel being used in this product is allegedly “surgical grade.” Other components of the product that could be provoking a reaction might be the adhesives used to assemble the product.  With this recall, Park hopes the next generation of the Force tracker will be usable for everyone.  The recall is only for a certain number of products, though, those “sold between Oct. 13 and Feb. 14 flex and non-wristband models are not eligible for refund.”

What some people do not realize is that contact dermatitis and other skin rashes occur from clothes and germs that one encounters on a daily basis.  Men’s Fitness talks about the viruses and bacteria one can get from a gym. For instance, the Human Papilloma virus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, but it allegedly can be caught through other means.   Plantar warts are a form of HPV that can be picked up in the gym shower or locker room if the person is not protecting their feet with shower shoes.  These warts enter the skin through a crack or a break in the skin, such as a cut, and form a rough bump on the surface. Warts are non-cancerous but unpleasant to bear.  These warts are highly contagious and usually occur on the sole of the foot.  They are also typically mistaken for calluses, but unlike a callus, they can be extremely painful.

FitbitKlebsiella is bacteria found in healthy human intestines and stool, however, these bacteria have also been found on work-out machines, mats, weights, water fountains, and locker rooms.  Some forms of this infection are resistant to antibiotics and are considered opportunistic, but most of the bacteria should be cleared up through antibiotic treatment.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that this bacteria must enter the respiratory tract to cause pneumonia, but it can also be contracted through bloodstream infection (often through hospital settings), and person-to-person contact.

Men’s Fitness also reports Escherichia coli (E.Coli), and Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph) as two more of hundreds of germs found in the gym.   Luckily, E.Coli, along with most everything one encounters in daily life, can be prevented by using clean utensils, washing hands thoroughly, and, when at the gym, by keeping hands away from the face.

Staph can cause mild to severe symptoms requiring hospitalization.  Over 30 different forms of Staphylococci can infect humans.  This bacterium is easily transmitted in full-contact sports where cuts and breaks in the skin allow the bacteria to  transmit.  Casual contact is considered to be an insignificant risk, but direct contact to a staph lesion, abscess, boil, or furuncle, can result in infection.

The public has been advised not to assume a rash is as benign as contact dermatitis, as it is for 1.7 percent of  Fitbit Force users, and that it can be the result of something much more serious.  A doctor can diagnose a rash, and will decide on the best course of treatment.

By Lindsey Alexander


Cleveland Clinic
Mayo Clinic

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