The Danger in Having Your Laptop on Your Lap

by Matt Koble
Pinnacle Pictures/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Its very name seems to suggest that your lap is the ideal place for your laptop. But while it's certainly convenient to keep your laptop on your lap, the convenience may not be worth the consequences. Ailments range in severity from superficial skin discoloration to potential fertility issues, making this a topic worth paying attention to if you often use a laptop on your lap.

Toasted Skin Syndrome

When under heavy or demanding use, laptops often heat up as a result of the internal components working extra hard to perform your requested tasks. Any PC gamer who plays on a laptop can attest to the heat issue. Exposure to this heat can cause a condition scientifically known as "erythema ab igne," but more commonly referred to as "toasted leg syndrome." The affected area develops a blotchy pink or red rash. This condition develops over time, though how long depends on how frequently you use your laptop on your lap, and how often it gets excessively hot. The Stanford Daily suggests that this condition is mostly aesthetic and preventing further exposure will cause the condition to fade.

Male Fertility Issues

Perhaps the most serious risk associated with laptop use involves male fertility. The scrotum is very fragile and adapted to remain at relatively the same temperature in varying conditions. However, setting a laptop on your lap can cut off air flow to that vital area and trap your testicles near the heat your laptop generates. Urologist Yelim Sheynkin warned Reuters that scrotal temperature can reach unsafe levels with just 10 to 15 minutes of exposure. Widening the legs to provide better airflow and using a lap pad only delayed the rise in testicular temperature to about 30 minutes.

Long-Term Cancer Risks

Since laptops are a relatively new technology, there simply isn't enough data yet to determine whether there are any long-term health risks. Dermatologist Anthony J. Mancini warned CBS News New York that " prolonged skin inflammation can potentially increase chances for squamous cell skin cancer, which is more aggressive than the most common skin cancer." On the other hand, David Ping, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Stanford, calls the development of squamous cell cancer "extremely unlikely" in these cases.


Fortunately, preventing these problems from happening to you is a simple matter of altering laptop use. Instead of holding the laptop directly on your lap, try sitting at a table where the laptop has no contact with your legs. If you really don't want to give up lap use, consider purchasing a laptop cooling pad or stand. A cooling pad or fan will help protect against toasted skin syndrome, but Reuters warns it won't be enough to prevent an unhealthy rise in testicular temperature.


Photo Credits

  • Pinnacle Pictures/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About the Author

Matt Koble has been writing professionally since 2008. He has been published on websites such as DoItYourself. Koble mostly writes about technology, electronics and computer topics.

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