Toasted Skin Syndrome

The Toasted Skin Syndrome is also known as erythema ab igne, hot water bottle rash, fire stains, laptop thigh and granny's tartan. It is a skin condition caused by long-term exposure to heat. Prolonged thermal (infrared) radiation exposure to the skin can lead to the development of reticulated erythema, hyperpigmentation, scaling and telangiectasias (spider veins) in the affected area. Some people may complain of mild itchiness and a burning sensation, but often, unless a change in pigmentation is seen, it may go unnoticed.

These days the Toasted Skin Syndrome is mentioned because of prolonged use of laptops that are rested on the thighs. Because laptops can occasionally reach temperatures of 50°C, resting it for longer periods of time on your upper legs should be avoided.
Other causes of Toasted Skin Syndrome are the repeated application of hot water bottles, heating blankets or heat pads to treat chronic pain, such as chronic backache[1]. Repeated or prolonged exposure to a heater is a common cause of Toasted Skin Syndrome in elderly individuals, but heated car seats, space heaters, or fireplaces can also be problematic.

Research indicates that children’s skin is possibly more sensitive to heat. This has to be taken in account when buying laptop computers for use by children. When using laptop computers on the thighs or knees for a long time, we recommend that heat protection (eg, the laptop’s carrying case) between the body and the computer be used[2].

[1] Ryan et al: What Caused This Hyperpigmented Reticulated Rash On This Man’s Back? in The Dermatologist - 2013
[2] Arnold et al: Laptop Computer–Induced Erythema ab Igne in a Child and Review of the Literature in Pediatrics - 2010

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