Boy Develops "Toasted Skin Syndrome" From Laptop

A 12 year-old-boy who played computer games a few hours a day for several months with his laptop on his legs developed permanent sponge-patterned discoloration on his left thigh. Though he knew it got hot, he didn’t adjust the laptop.

This is why scientists everywhere recommend that if something feels like it is hot and burning your skin, you should get away from it.

He is one of 10 patients documented in a recent study who reported the condition, which has previously been seen on people’s legs who work in front of hot stoves or old people with electric blankets. The heat comes from the laptop’s processors. In addition, placing a laptop on your lap may block the exhaust fan.

If you use a laptop for a prolonged period of time, it is recommended that you put some kind of protection between your tender legs and the mean old laptop bottom.

Laptop Risk: ‘Toasted Skin Syndrome’ [WebMD]


Edit Your Comment

  1. SonarTech52 says:

    That’s why we don’t refer to ours as “Laptops” anymore.. They are Notebooks. Some people cant understand why their Notebook overheats.. while using them on their laps, sometimes with a blanket underneath..

    • c!tizen says:

      +1000! These things aren’t meant to be placed on your lap and I wish I could backhand the person that coined the term laptop, it’s stupid. They are portable notebook computers, not lap warmers. Moreover, even though it’s changing more and more, the vents and intakes for the notebooks are located on the bottom of the system which get covered up when placed on your lap. No vents, no exhaust, no bitching when it burns you.

      Everyone say it with me now… “I will not put my notebook on my lap”

      • redwall_hp says:

        My MacBook’s vents are on the top. (The air is pushed through the keyboard and a slot where the screen hinge is.) It doesn’t ever get uncomfortably warm, unless I do something stupid like playing a 3D game while wearing shorts.

        Oh, and if your notebook has vents on the bottom, NEVER put it on a bed. It will block the vents and likely overheat the machine. That was my diagnosis when a friend was having her machine crash while installing some game.

        • qwickone says:

          My macbook gets so effin hot! I thought they were notorious for overheating easily… I have a cooling pad, so i haven’t burned myself or anything, but it gets quite hot. (And no, my vents are not blocked in any way).

      • Don't Be "That Guy" says:

        I agree completely. Many people don’t realize that even if the exhaust vents are on the side, the intakes are frequently on the bottom.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      Ugh, I know people that do this. They completely cover their laptop’s vents & then wonder why their fans go out prematurely.

    • s0s has a chewy nougat center says:

      Pretty much this. I have my MacBook Pro on my lap right now (wearing jeans, and it has the vents along the back hinge), because I’m in a waiting room. But when I’m at home and ESPECIALLY when I’m gaming or using PSCS5, I put it on a cooling platform that has a huge, adjustable speed fan and also lifts and angles the entire base of the machine, to encourage proper air circulation and ventilation. That gets set on my solid wood bed desk. I dare it to try to overheat under those circumstances, without something being horrifically wrong.

      A peer in college, however, thought it would be a great idea to put his Toshiba POS (that the school REQUIRED us to purchase, even knowing it was a model that had a ton of defects) on his comforter-covered bed and leave it for a day or so.

      When we opened it up, after it had cooled down, the inside was a literally mess of slag. Everything had melted. He did this with two subsequent replacements before learning his lesson, if memory serves.

  2. StuffThingsObjects says:

    I wonder if he will be comp-insated.

    • SonarTech52 says:

      I see what you did there.. cant think of any other puns though…

      Or will he get, Burned!…. no not so good…

    • BobOki says:

      Even though he tried to thigh to his parents about it, he still found himself in the hotseat.
      Consumerist, always asking the burning questions for fear of getting fired, got a hold of his parents and asked which game he warmed up to, they responded, “One of the Top 10 Hot titles.”

  3. jdmba says:


  4. Macgyver says:

    It’s their own fault, if you can feel it getting hot, take it off your lap.

    • TBGBoodler says:

      It’s not really hot. Kind of warm, but not uncomfortable.

      • SonarTech52 says:

        Kind of like a heating pad.. Which is why they recommend you dont use them over a certain length of time.

    • trey says:

      i guess in your world 12 year old children are responsible?

      • nbs2 says:

        Even my 3 year old knows that “hot is danger.” A 12 year old is old enough to how to move a hot object.

        • BorkBorkBork says:

          I wonder if it has anything to do with how young kids playing video games completely check out from the world around them. The house could be burning down around them, and they wouldn’t notice (at least until the next save point).

        • Rectilinear Propagation says:

          But does he think “warm is danger”?

          • nbs2 says:

            Of course she doesn’t – if it isn’t too hot to hold, she’s fine with it for a little while. But, eventually, the heat build up is enough that she moves because of heat and/or sweat discomfort. I can’t confirm her reaction, but I suspect after this happened a couple times she would find a more comfortable alternative seating arrangement.

            Now, granted she’s closer to her 4th birthday than her 3rd, but she still isn’t 12. I won’t blame him like I would have had he been 16 or so, but he’s old enough to not be an idiot.

            • Rectilinear Propagation says:

              I think you missed my point.

            • kujospam says:

              Humans are no different then lobsters. If heat slowly builds up we do not notice the heat change. But if you were to lift up the laptop and put it back down after a minute you would notice it really fast.

      • c!tizen says:

        responsible and aware are two totally different things. There is no responsibility in noticing that your legs are burning.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        My 7 year-old would know to take a hot lap top off her lap. Maybe he’s special.

      • Chaosium says:

        “i guess in your world 12 year old children are responsible?”

        at 12, partially. The parents should be.

  5. TBGBoodler says:

    This happened to me too! I had recently had laser treatments on my legs and thought that was what was causing the mottled red blotches. Then I got a laptop “desk” (Belkin cushdesk) and the redness eventually disappeared. I knew it was aggravated by the laptop, but didn’t realize it was caused by the laptop until I noticed it had gone away completely.

  6. The cake is a lie! says:

    burnt legs is the least of his problems. Wait till carpal tunnel syndrome sets in from playing video games on his lap. His parents should be prosecuted for child abuse for letting him play in that position for hours a day for several months. Not really, but still… Where were the freaking parents? And more importantly, what game was he playing? I want one that I can play that long without getting bored.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Where were the freaking parents?

      His skin wasn’t on fire. How were they supposed to know it was getting warm enough to do damage if it wasn’t even bothering him?

      • PHRoG says:

        Uh, maybe by not letting them play video games for hours everyday.

      • The cake is a lie! says:

        The point is, why did they let their 12 year old sit with a laptop playing video games for hours upon hours for several months? Last time I checked, summer break was only two or three months long. So what was going on that he was allowed to just plug in as soon as he could after school and not do anything else. And we wonder why kids suffer form ADHD and obesity… At least the Wii gives them some exercise, but letting your kids sit on the couch playing video games all day has to be considered some form of neglect. Especially when it results in injuries. I’m sure laptop manufacturers will come up with some statistic of exactly how long you would have to keep a laptop on your legs before it created a burn like that.

        • shepd says:

          30 years ago we encouraged children to sit in their bed reading a book. Other than the possible knowledge aspect, asking kids not to use laptops must also mean asking them not to sit around reading books.

          I think what you have the problem with isn’t the sitting, but the video games. Either that or you have a problem with kids that sit around reading books.

        • Rectilinear Propagation says:

          Especially when it results in injuries.

          Again, how were the parents supposed to know using the laptop was going to cause an injury like this? I’m not asking for your opinion on how long kids should be allowed to play video games, I’m asking why the parents should have seen this particular injury coming.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      burnt legs

      It’s not a burn

  7. rpm773 says:

    Sounds delicious!

  8. danmac says:

    His legs were cooked a few hours a day over a period of several months? I bet they’re delicious!

  9. Rocket says:

    Umm… so why don’t you move the laptop if it’s hot?

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Sometimes when a body part is exposed to a heat source that warms up gradually, you become acclimated to the temperature which would be uncomfortably hot when touched to any other part of the body.

      I used my netbook on my lap a few times, and would always be startled by how hot the underside was, and wondered why it only felt “warm” on my legs. Now I have a lapdesk, which also is more comfortable.

    • aloria says:

      I doubt it was hot like touching a stove. My laptops get pretty warm, but it’s actually quite pleasant, especially when it’s chilly. The problem is keeping that much heat on the skin for a long time.

  10. Danny says:

    read the full article, good thing they are doctors -cause they sure know squat when it comes to computers. (optical drives dont cause the heat they are talking about)

    • anarkie says:

      I was thinking the exact same thing. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I’ve used the optical drive except for my Windows 7 upgrade.

  11. dolemite says:

    Now he’s called Sponge Boy Square Pants.

  12. ColoradoShark says:

    The heat most definitely does *not* come from the optical drive. It comes from either the main processor or the graphics processor.

    Not that it really matters since our skin is still toasted, but if you make a statement of fact, it’s really good if the facts are correct.

  13. rubicthecube says:

    I have a feeling this was a W.O.W. related incident. On a side note, don’t kids go out and play anymore? It seems the older I get, the less I hear kids yelling out “CAR!”

    • jesirose says:

      No one’s yelling “CAR” because they’re either too stupid or too entitled to get the fuck outta the way! I can’t believe how often I see kids playing in the road and they just stare as I drive up and have to wait as they SLOWLY SAUNTER out of the road. It’s a road dipshits, not a playground.

      • blz5k says:


        Except in my neighborhood, they don’t even move. I had one little kid stand IN FRONT OF MY CAR as I was coming down a major road, move in the same direction I tried to move to get around him, then flip me the bird when I honked my horn at him. Where were his parents? On the sidewalk, laughing and encouraging him.

    • joshua70448 says:

      Ah, yes, because every problem caused by video games has to have something to do with World of Warcraft. You do realize there are hundreds of other video games out there, right?

  14. friendlynerd says:

    Um…optical drive? No.

    It’s the processor and/or the hard drive cranking out the heat.

    • dangermike says:

      If your hard drive is putting out enough heat to hurt you, you’re definitely going to want to look into some means of backing up your data.


      • Chaosium says:

        “If your hard drive is putting out enough heat to hurt you, you’re definitely going to want to look into some means of backing up your data.


        Uh, no. HDDs put out a lot of heat. Not as much as the GPU/CPU, but still more than the other components.

        • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

          Yes, HDDs put out heat, but not insofar as to burn you to the touch, unless it’s either not being ventilated, or it’s being way overtaxed.

        • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

          Yes, HDDs put out heat, but not insofar as to burn you to the touch, unless it’s either not being ventilated, or it’s being way overtaxed. How to fix that–get some more RAM in your computer (so as to not rely on swapfiles–added benefit: faster computer!) or get your fan(s) cleaned out so they can spin properly.

          • Chaosium says:

            If you’re copying a large amount of files over to a high-speed drive, it can get to temperatures enough to “burn” skin. Sure, it won’t light a fire, but it’ll definitely be uncomfortable.

  15. FarkonGnome says:

    Mm mm mm mm mm … toasty!

  16. sufreak says:

    “Though he knew it got hot, he didn’t adjust the laptop.”
    We call this natural selection.

  17. Kevinsky says:

    Wasn’t it Apple who famously said in response to a complaint about heat “We don’t make laptops, we make notebooks!”

  18. robocop is bleeding says:

    Minecraft is a hell of a drug.

  19. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    if something feels like it is hot and burning your skin

    It’s not a burn, it’s a rash:

    Note that the WebMD article never calls it a burn either.

    • Dunkelzahn says:

      For your sake, let’s just switch ‘burn’ to ‘damage’.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        It still doesn’t make sense to say “feels like it is hot and damaging your skin” because that’s not what it feels like. They wouldn’t have to put time limits on things like heating pads if people could actually feel the skin damage occurring.

  20. cmdr.sass says:

    “This is why scientists everywhere recommend that if something feels like it is hot and burning your skin, you should get away from it.”

    Thanks, scientists!

  21. Mecharine says:

    Why were the ever called laptops in the first place? I can only imagine how much heat a 1990’s era “laptop” put out.

    • jeff_the_snake says:

      a lot less actually, early cpus didn’t even need heatsinks

      • buzz86us says:

        I have a dell latitude CPxJ and the fan never runs as much as my current computer’s fan does.

      • dolemite says:

        I have a lot of old components from the 90s in a box in the basement. Most of the cpus and video cards only had a teeny tiny heatsink on them, and no fans at all.

    • Chaosium says:

      “Why were the ever called laptops in the first place?”

      People weren’t as fat? :D

      “I can only imagine how much heat a 1990’s era “laptop” put out.”
      Not as much, the components get more efficient for their size, but continue to take and put out greater amounts of heat (with the exception of netbooks, etc.)

    • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

      A 1990s “laptop” would have probably crushed your lap from its weight. Not to mention, as others have, that CPUs weren’t as powerful and thus didn’t generate the kind of auxiliary heat today’s CPUs do. I’ve owned many a computer that didn’t have fans nor heatsinks, back in those days when the internet was for text porn and modems still made noises over phone lines.

  22. aloria says:

    I got a similar condition back ~2000 from a thinkpad. The thing is, the thing wasn’t uncomfortably hot, just warm, but having that much heat on my skin for extended periods of time caused red blotchiness on my thighs. I’m sure you could get the same effect keeping a heating pad in your lap all evening, every evening.

    Fortunately, the damage wasn’t permanent and faded a few months after I started placing my laptop on a dinner tray.

  23. El-Brucio says:

    I look forward to a future in which cpu’s become so powerful that they start giving off electrical shocks as well. That way I’ll be able to blame the OP for not wearing rubber gloves while using it.

  24. loreshdw says:

    I got dry patches on my legs from my “notebook” a few years ago during the winter. The computer just feels warm, which is nice in the winter, but all that heat dries out your skin. It doesn’t create a burn, just a patch of really dry slightly scaly skin. I got a cooling fan pad for it & lotion for my legs, problem solved.

  25. Blind Cynicism says:

    I bet the leg meat is nice and tender now…like fall off the bone tender.

  26. nygenxer says:

    The only thing a twelve year old boy should play with for hours is his

  27. Weekilter says:

    This really seems like one of those “duh” moments. If the kid can’t move away from intense heat there’s something wrong with the kid.

  28. jpdanzig says:

    Whew, this happened to me too this summer. As another commenter noted, the computer felt pretty warm, but not hot. I now put the laptop on a gel-filled pad from Targus, and the red blotches on my thigh are fading. Good thing my PS3 sits on a shelf when I’m playing video games!

  29. Chaosium says:

    Putting your chubby legs where the exhaust ports are meant to flow through is an invitation not only to the health of your legs, but the health of your computer. Way to make it overheat and shut down, dingbat(s).

  30. Mcshonky says:

    I believe the children are our future,
    Teach them well and let them lead the way

    Not the brightest bulb in the pack.