Laptop Toast: Feel the Burn


I never put my laptop on my lap. It really functions as a desktop computer, or rather a coffee table-top computer, and the only physical harm it brings me is a sore back, which is more my fault than its. (I tend to slam away at the thing while hunched over said coffee table.) So the following problem isn’t an issue for me, though it apparently deserves mentioning. At least according to a friend, who often uses her laptop in the manner for which it was named. Just a moment ago, after hearing me read the lead of this AP article, she cries out, “Oh my God, yeah! I’m way scared of that!

“That” is the dreaded Toasted Skin Syndrome.

Toasted Skin Syndrome is a mottled skin condition caused by long-term heat exposure. It kind of looks like a red cobweb beneath the surface of the skin (fair warning: that link is to The Dermatology Blog and is, by definition, not something you want to look at if you and I have anything in common) and is also less well-known by its other name – Erythema ab igne. (As if Toasted Skin Syndrome needed an even stranger name.)

Evidently, anything hot and prolonged can cause the condition, from overuse of heating pads to sitting too long and too often by the fireplace to, yes, dumbly getting too much touch time with your 125-degreeish laptop. There has been some links to skin cancer, but that’s rare, and this unflattering toasting is pretty much harmless. The skin discoloration can be permanent, though, so unless you’re into spidery body art, you might want to make sure to get some chill time in between laptop sessions.

The article notes two recent cases of the syndrome. One involved a 12-year-old boy who toasted his left thigh after over-enjoying computer games for hours a day for many a month. The other involved a law-school student who spent about six hours a day working with her laptop on her laptop. All told, there have been 10 reported cases in medical journals in the last six years.

Had these folks read their users manuals, they might have avoided the syndrome, as it seems Apple, Hewlett Packard and Dell all have verbiage warning about exposing their laptops directly to skin for long periods. I wonder if they also warn dudes about “elevated scrotum temperatures,” which can lead to infertility. Hmm.

Anyway, my friend here says she’s taken to putting an oversized pillow in between her and her beloved Macbook (“MacBook Pro, bitch,” I’ve just been informed). I’m not sure what that means for her have-laptop-will-travel approach, but it sounds comfy enough. Sure beats a bizarro new tattoo.

Image: Daquella manera

Scott Adelson

Scott Adelson is EcoSalon's Senior Editor of HyperKulture, a monthly column that explores opening cultural doors to initiate personal change. He is also the author of InPRINT, which reviews and discusses books, new and old. You can reach him at