Laptops—the name suggests portability and a smallness that allows them to fit on your lap. But are laptops really that safe on your thighs? According to WebMD, they are not. “Toasted Skin Syndrome” is the diagnosis of getting burns from computers, heated blankets, and other devices.1
Toasted Skin Syndrome from computers (or other portable devices) is caused by your skin blocking the ventilation fans at the bottom of your computer. You might be scoffing at this and saying, “Toasted Skin Syndrome? Ha! My legs are fine! I’m not getting toasted!” However, you might reconsider this notion when I tell you what happened to my mother.
My mother used to place her computer on her lap, like everyone else does in commercials, TV shows, and all around us. One day, her legs felt slightly numb after having her computer on her lap for a long time. Soon, the numbness went away, and she repeated the process of having her laptop on her legs and feeling numb over the course of a few days. Each time, the discomfort got worse, until finally, she decided not to put the laptop on her lap, because the pain and numbness were too much for her. It took at least a month for her legs to heal and stop feeling numb. After that, she did some research and found that what she was experiencing was a mild case of Toasted Skin Syndrome. To this day, she feels like her legs (and sometimes her hands) are on fire when she sits near her laptop, like when it is on a table. But if this story doesn’t convince you, I have more evidence to support my claim.
People who don’t feel the effects of their laptops yet, or don’t connect the “weird” feeling in their thighs to their computer, might think that they aren’t being burned. You can get Toasted Skin Syndrome if your skin is heated by a source that is 111.20 F for 6-8 hours a day, over the course of several weeks to months.2 That’s a short time-frame, and if you only have your laptop on your lap for a few hours a day, the burn will take longer to form, which is probably why many people don’t notice it until they can visually tell they’re being burned. This would explain why people would think that they’re fine, when in reality, they really aren’t.
Besides being toasted like bread, there are other bad effects from having your laptop on your lap. When you have your computer on your lap, you block the air intake vents of your computer; this damages your laptop and may cause it to overheat, which in turn cooks your leg and could cause discomfort and damaged nerves in your legs,3 like it did to my mother. I, myself, have felt the heat from my iPad, which caused me discomfort, and could have toasted me if I had not been careful and moved it off my lap. Parents beware, because children’s skin is more sensitive to the heat than an adult’s would be, so if it is bad for an adult, then it is even worse for a child. Make sure that any electronic device children under your care play with is used in the safest way possible.
A second reason to avoid using your computer on your lap is that it can damage important reproductive areas; in particular, men can become sterile. Other long-term side-effects include permanent darkening of the skin and skin lesions and cancer.4
Finally, having your laptop on your lap makes you hunch over and causes you to have neck strain and soreness.5 So, if you need to see a chiropractor for your neck or buy a new computer because yours overheated and “died,” then using your laptop incorrectly could be costly to your health and your wallet.
With all this evidence, it seems that placing your computer on your lap is never a good idea. But here is one more thing I want to mention: Not only does WebMD say that laptops can cause Toasted Skin Syndrome, but there are labels on laptops warning you not to block the ventilation fans with any part of your body.6
So, if the laptop manufacturers themselves tell you not to put them on your lap, and they are trying to re-name these devices to be called “notebooks” in order to discourage people from placing them on their laps,7 shouldn’t we then stop placing them on our laps?
3,5 “Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Laptop Computer on Your Lap.” AliasFightwear.com, Alias Fightwear, 2 Aug. 2017, www.aliasfightwear.com/xhtml/why-you-shouldn-t-put-your-laptop-computer-on-your-lap/.
1,2,4,6,7 Hendrick, Bill. “Laptop Risk: ‘Toasted Skin Syndrome’.” WebMD, WebMD, 4 Oct. 2010, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20101004/laptop-risk-toasted-skin-syndrome#1.