How to Easily Identify and Diagnose Toasted Skin Syndrome

woman with laptop on lap

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Toasted skin syndrome (erythema ab igne or EAI) has a few names associated with it, including hot water bottle rash, fire stains, laptop thigh, and granny's tartan. Luckily, although toasted skin syndrome is an ugly symptom, it's not serious. Although it is not considered a burn, toasted skin syndrome is caused by prolonged or repeated skin exposure to heat or infrared radiation, whether mild or moderate.

Specific causes may include hot water bottles or heating pads for pain relief, laptop computer exposure (such as on the battery or ventilation fan), and fireplaces. Other causes have been due to car seat heaters, heated chairs and blankets, sauna belts, and everyday household appliances like space heaters or even the simple stove/oven.


Diagnosing toasted skin syndrome is relatively easy. It can be diagnosed with two main points. First is the reticulated pattern of the discoloration, which should not be even. It is a mottled, sponge, or net-like pattern. Second, you should notice that it does not itch or hurt much, like moat rashes or skin injuries do. Mild itching and burning may occur temporarily but often fades. If this diagnosis seems to meet what you are experiencing, then it is important to locate a heat source that the affected area of skin is often exposed to, and stop using it until your skin is healed.

Who Is Most Likely to Have the Skin Symptom?

Those treating themselves to some type of ailment, like a chronic backache, may be used to a repeated application of a heat source that may be causing this dermatologic issue. Toasted skin syndrome is also common amongst elderly individuals who may susceptible to prolonged exposure to a heater, for example. There are also occupational hazards in various work environments depending on the profession. For example, silversmiths and jewelers have their faces exposed to the heat, while bakers and chefs have their arms bare.

With laptop computers, the left thigh is most commonly affected. In fact, over 15 cases have been reported in 2012 where primarily 25-year-old women received the diagnosis. Thus, it is important to position the laptop in a safe place that doesn't touch the skin for too long, or at all, especially with powerful processors that reach high temperatures.


There are several treatments available including medical options and physical modalities. Medically, the most important step is to eliminate the heat source immediately. For example, if you are using car heaters, turn off the heat entirely if you can; otherwise, lower the temperature as much as possible.

Treating pain with over-the-counter pain relievers is important. Consider ibuprofen like Advil or Motrin, acetaminophen like Tylenol, or naproxen like Aleve. A topical therapy that includes 5-fluorouracil, tretinoin, and hydroquinone, is likely to work. Pure Aloe, Vitamin E, or walnut oil may also help with healing and pigmentation. Alternatively, there are also physical skin therapies available including laser therapy and photodynamic therapy.

Medical help is especially important when there are signs of infection, increase pain, redness, swelling, fever, or oozing. In this case, antibiotics and pain medication will likely be prescribed by a doctor. Individuals having the aforementioned issues with their diagnosis are encouraged to see their doctor or dermatologist. Otherwise, the skin should return to a normal condition in a few weeks.

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Adams, Chris. "How to Easily Identify and Diagnose Toasted Skin Syndrome." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Adams, Chris. (2021, February 16). How to Easily Identify and Diagnose Toasted Skin Syndrome. Retrieved from Adams, Chris. "How to Easily Identify and Diagnose Toasted Skin Syndrome." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 7, 2021).