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Research links laptops to 'toasted skin syndrome'

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In the latest installment of "The Chronicles of Duh...", researchers from the University of Basel, Switzerland, have discovered that letting a hot laptop rest on your thighs for hours at a time isn't good for you.

Their research was published by the journal Pediatrics in an article enticingly entitled "Laptop Computer–Induced Erythema ab Igne in a Child and Review of the Literature".

For the illatinate among you, "erythema ab igne" roughly translates to "skin reddening from fire", and is more-specifically defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a "reticular, pigmented, sometimes telangiectatic dermatosis."

In the vulgate, however, this uncomfortable but not dangerous skin condition is best known as "toasted skin syndrome". (Yum, pass me some of that toasted skin along with them pork rinds...)

The researchers' unfortunately toasted subject was a 12-year-old boy who developed the splotchy skin characteristic of toasted skin syndrome after playing games on his laptop for several hours per day for several months.

"Where were this kid's parents?", we find ourselves asking.

From the researchers' description, it seems that their subject was about as inattentive as his mom and pop: "He recognized that the laptop got hot on the left side," they write, "however, regardless of that, he did not change its position."

Although the young fellow may not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer, his inattention to his own well-being is unlikely to have caused him permanent damage. Toasted skin syndrome, the researchers write, may cause skin to darken — perhaps permanenetly — but it's highly unlikely to lead to such nastiness as skin cancer.

That said, any messing around with your body's largest organ is not a good idea — it's better to be safe than sorry. And, for that matter, it's better to be comfortable than toasted.

And so to prevent the dreaded TSS, Dr. Reg prescribes pyrolytic prophylaxis — in other words, laptop cooling.

The simplest way to cool your laptop is to put some space between its bottom and your thighs — or, for that matter, your desk. You can, of course, spread your legs and try to balance it between your thighs, but that's both dorky and dangerous.

And don't, fer chrissake, simply put a pillow on top of your lap to insulate your thighs. All that'll do is allow heat to build up inside your laptop's case and eventually fry your system. You'll avoid a nasty case of reticular, pigmented, sometimes telangiectatic dermatosis, but it'll cost you.

The most straightforward way to avoid turning your thighs into pork rinds is a passive cooler, such as the compact Xpad Slim or a full-on lap-straddling workspace like LapWork's Laptop Desk line.

One exceptionally convenient passive-cooling method can be found in the ThermaPak HeatShift line. These roll-up pads use a chemical reaction to suck heat from your laptop — which is great for a couple of hours, but after their chemical cooling concoction absorbs its allotment of calories, the pad becomes merely the dreaded Pillow of Doom mentioned earlier.

So if you're a hard-core laptop gamer who pushes your machine for hours on end — and if you don't mind a bit of noise — get a fan-based cooler such as the simple but more-than-serviceable Antec Notebook Cooler 200 or Notebook Cooler to Go, or a Cadillac cooler such as Zalman's ZM-NC2500 Plus and ZM-NC3000U, or Nzxt's Cryo LX.

After all, although erythema ab igne toasted skin syndrome may not be all that dangerous, those splotchy, mottled thighs will, however, brand you as someone too dumb to take a hot laptop off of your lap. ®

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