A new category: Unhealthy wearables. FitBit Surge causing rashes

Some users of Fitbit’s lastest device, the Surge smartwatch, have reported rash and skin irritation on their wrists, and it seems the only productive answer for a remedy is to just take it off. Fitbit told TechCrunch that a small amount of users have had problems and  that irritation from wearing anything on your wrist […]

Some users of Fitbit’s lastest device, the Surge smartwatch, have reported rash and skin irritation on their wrists, and it seems the only productive answer for a remedy is to just take it off.

Fitbit told TechCrunch that a small amount of users have had problems and  that irritation from wearing anything on your wrist for long periods of time, even bracelets or other wearables can cause irritation. After consulting dermatologists, Fitbit’s best advice is to keep the area dry and clean, and if need be, give your wrist a breather.

The Fitbit Force had to be recalled in early 2014 because of skin rashes, and a class-action lawsuit followed. In order to avoid that situation again, publicly stating people should just take of the Surge is the firm’s best bet.

With the Force, Fitbit claimed rashes were caused by nickel in the device’s band, but even with reportedly less nickel in the device Charge, people still got rashes.

The Surge device includes this warning: “Prolonged contact may contribute to skin irritation or allergies in some users. If you notice any signs of skin redness, swelling, itchiness, or other skin irritation, please discontinue use or wear the product clipped over a piece of clothing.”

Fitbit is trying to rest on the idea that wearing anything for a long time on your wrist can cause irritation, especially with moisture and other factors, but similar devices from Jawbone, Nike, Garmin haven’t had the same issue.

Sales of the Surge are essential for Fitbit’s vitality as a company, so they can’t really afford another recall.

Here’s the official statement from Fitbit:

We continue to be aware of a very limited percentage of users reporting skin irritation among our users.

The reactions we are seeing with new products are not uncommon with jewelry or wearable devices that stay in contact with the skin for extended periods. According to our consulting dermatologists, they are likely from wearing the band too tight; sweat, water, or soap being held against the skin under the device; or from pressure or friction against the skin and should resolve quickly when users take a break from the device, usually within hours or days.

We encourage anyone wearing an activity-tracking wristband to follow the guidelines we’ve developed with our team of dermatologists, to educate the public on how to wear and care for devices and keep skin happy: Keep it clean, keep it dry and give your wrist a rest.

We continue to monitor this issue, as it impacts all companies that make products worn next to the skin, particularly the wearables industry as people tend to wear devices for long periods without giving their skin a break.

[Photo from Flickr user Brian Junyor]

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