A boy was rushed to hospital after he had an allergic reaction to the Facebook virtual reality headset he got for Christmas – swelling his eyes shut.
Lewis Gray, 13, was thrilled when he received the Oculus Quest 2 from his grandparents and couldn’t wait to strap it to his head and start gaming.
It wasn’t until the next day mum Kirsty Reed, 33, started to notice the skin around his eyes and forehead start to go red.
He was taken to hospital when his yes started to swell shut, and doctors said it was an allergic reaction.
A recall alert showed Facebook received 5,716 reports of facial skin irritation, with reactions including rashes, swelling, burning, itching, hives, and bumps, following use of the kit.
The Oculus Quest 2 – also known as Meta Quest 2 – is a virtual reality headset created by Facebook Technologies, and can be used to play games.
Mum Kirsty, from Chertsey, Surrey, said: “He played with it Christmas day on and off over a period of a few hours.
“When he woke up on Boxing Day morning there was irritation along his cheekbones and on his forehead.
“It almost looked like he was wearing blush.
“There was a slight amount of swelling so I gave him some Piriteze, but the next morning he’s woken up his eyes are nearly shut with the swelling.”
On Monday (27/12), he woke up and his dad Christopher Gray, 39, rushed him to the urgent treatment centre at St Peter’s Hospital in Lyne.
When the doctor saw him, they suggested it was likely a delayed allergic reaction to the headset and prescribed him some antihistamines and precautionary steroids.
Kirsty said: “It’s worrying because you don’t know what’s going to happen or if the reaction’s going to go further onto the throat.
“Anaphylaxis was a major concern as the swelling was so much.
“The doctors had said if you get more irritation in his eyes or it swells more we would have to go straight back.
“It could have completely closed his eyes if it had continued.
“It’s not very nice. I don’t think he fully understood until he spoke to the doctor.”
Support worker Kirsty researched the Oculus Quest 2, and found that the product had been temporarily recalled in July.
Facebook, now known as Meta, started receiving reports of skin irritation in December 2020 and started an investigation.
This was then updated in April, saying that they had “identified a few trace substances that are normally present in the manufacturing process which could contribute to skin discomfort.”
It added that, even though these were below industry standard, they had “changed [their] process to reduce them even further.”
But, in July, another notice was put on the Oculus website stating that as more people had started using the headset, more cases came in.
It read: “We’ve received reports that a very small percentage of Quest 2 customers were experiencing skin irritation after using the Quest 2 removable foam facial interface.”
Facebook/Meta also then offered a free silicone cover to headset owners to protect their skin, and that all new units would include one from August 24.
A recall alert showed that Facebook received 5,716 reports of facial skin irritation, with reactions including rashes, swelling, burning, itching, hives, and bumps, following use of the Oculus Quest 2.
They also received approximately 45 reports of consumers requiring medical attention.
Kirsty said: “What I can understand from what I’ve read up is that it’s the foam on the headset itself and there is chemicals.
“But it doesn’t say anything could cause irritation in the information booklets that come with it.
“It took me some digging to find the issues.”
Lewis’ device did come with the silicone cover, but Kirsty claims there was no indication as to why it was there.
While there were warnings included for epilepsy and that the product wasn’t suitable for children under 13, Kirsty couldn’t see anything mentioning potential skin irritation.
She said: “It didn’t even come with cover on it, it’s separate which makes you think if this is an issue why doesn’t it come with it on?
“It’s a really high-tech gaming device that a lot of children want and we need this warning about the potential risks involved.
“Why are they still producing it exactly the same when they know there’s a problem?
“Lewis is quite fortunate he doesn’t have underling allergens but for someone who’s prone for anaphylaxis it could kill someone.”
The furious mum-of-two contacted Oculus which has since told her to stop her son using the product and that they will contact her about next steps.
Andrew Bosworth, head of Facebook Reality Labs, published a letter in July addressing the reports of skin irritation.
It read: “We took the skin irritation reports very seriously as soon as we learned about them and, beginning in December, we promptly conducted a thorough investigation including receiving advice from leading dermatologists and toxicologists.
“These experts have advised that skin irritation can occur in some segments of the population from many household items—even things like tomatoes or shampoo—and that the rates we’ve seen are in line with expectations.
“Our investigation determined that our manufacturing process is safe, meaning no unexpected nor hazardous contaminants were found in the Quest 2 foam interface or manufacturing process.”
A statement on the MetaQuest/Oculus website reads: “As more people have started using Quest 2, we’ve received reports that a very small percentage of Quest 2 customers were experiencing skin irritation after using the Quest 2 removable foam facial interface. We’ve been working hard to address the issue, working with experts and making adjustments to our manufacturing process, and communicating proactively with regulators.
“The safety and comfort of every customer is our top priority. As part of this commitment, we are now offering a free silicone cover to Quest 2 headset and Quest 2 fit pack owners globally.”
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