The Heat is On: Don't Get Burned by Your Laptop

  Last updated March 20, 2011

Tags: toasted skin syndrome, hot laptops

If you travel with a laptop, chances are you’re forever booting up in airports, waiting rooms and hotel lobbies. And chances are, you’ve got the computer on your lap. Duh.

So it’s safe to say you’re familiar with feeling the heat, which can sometimes be quite uncomfortable.heat from laptops

But uncomfortable is just part of it. There’s actually a medical condition called “Toasted Skin Syndrome” which arises when people rest a hot laptop on their lap for an extended period of time. It can lead to permanent skin discoloration.

Okay. That sounds scary. But instead of panicking, we decided to talk to an expert, Dr. Harley Haynes, Vice Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital , Boston, MA and Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School.
Below, you’ll find his responses to our questions.

FarewellTravels: What is Toasted Skin Syndrome exactly?

Dr. Haynes: Chronic, intermittent exposure to excess heat, whether a laptop, heating pad, heating stove, or fireplace can cause a net-like discoloration of brown pigmentation and redness. The medical term for this syndrome is "erythema ab igne", Latin for redness from fire.

FarewellTravels: Is it something that is temporary or permanent?

Dr. Haynes: This is long-lasting, at least, and sometimes permanent.

FarewellTravels: How serious is it?

Dr. Haynes: There are no medical consequences of this disorder other than the appearance.

Farewell Travels: What would you recommend? NOT using a laptop on the lap at all? Taking frequent breaks? Using it only for an hour at a time?

Dr. Haynes: I recommend using something insulating between the laptop and the lap, such as a magazine, newspaper, pillow, blanket or carrying case. [Editor’s note: There are also a variety of portable lapdesks on the market.]

So...there you have it. When traveling, takes steps to protect your skin, not just from the sun and elements, but from your own electronics.

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