Your Laptop May "Toast" Your Skin

By Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Monday, Oct 4, 2010  |  Updated 6:30 PM CDT
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Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics

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They are called "laptops," but now researchers say that you lap may be the worst place to rest your portable computer.  Prolonged contact between hot computers and human skin can be dangerous, according to a study in Pediatrics.

Swiss doctors first noticed the condition they now call "toasted skin" back in 2004. A 12-year old boy complained of mottled skin on his thighs after extended sessions of playing video games.

Now Chicago dermatologists say they are seeing toasted skin in their patients, especially children.

Dr. Joaquin Brieva, of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, described the condition as a "big nuisance" medically. Brieva said the condition is a variant of erythema ab igne, or "fire-induced redness."

Usually heating pads and hot-water bottles cause the condition, but now researchers are seeing it triggered by long-term computer use.

Major computer manufacturers like Hewlett Packard, Dell and Apple caution their users not to place their machines on their skin for extended periods of time because of the risk of burns.

The news doesn’t surprise Karl Volkman of Chicago-based SRV Network.

"Because our computers are getting faster and faster, they are putting off more and more heat," said Volkman. 

Volkman said it’s not only faster processors causing problems.  Batteries, processors and cooling vents are often located on the bottom of jam-packed laptops, directing all their heat toward a user’s thighs.

Volkman recommends that laptop users place their machines on a desk or use a laptop desk or laptop cooler if you must use it on you lap.

Dr. Brieva agrees.

He says in rare cases, toasted skin can create a long-term, low-risk of a certain kind of skin cancer.

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