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Will Heated Seats Burn Your Backside?

Feb 22, 2012

MSNBC reports that if you overuse heated seats, they could cause erythema ab igne, or toasted skin syndrome. This condition can result in a rash as well as mild itching or burning, which is caused by long-term exposure to heat from sources such as hot water bottles, heating pads and laptop computers.

In the latest issue of Archives of Dermatology, two cases were presented where normally-functioning heated vehicle seats caused the skin condition. In the first case, a 40-year-old woman suffered from the condition, which resulted from using her car’s heated seats for one hour each day. The second case involves a 67-year-old woman who drove during the winter with her heated seats on for 120 hours.

Since heated seats can reach 109 degrees, they can cause a net-like mottled pigment change in some people. Dermatologist Dr. Eliot Mostow elaborated on the 40-year-old woman’s condition, according to MSNBC. "It's probably related to some blood vessel changes and changes in the pigment cells,” says Mostow. “You get more severe cases with longer exposure, but to be honest, everybody's different. Some people will get it sooner with the exact same exposure. They're more sensitive."

If you’re concerned that your heated seats may cause a skin condition, Mostow says that using them in moderation is key. “If I had a recommendation, it would be to use the car seat heater to warm up the seat, then turn it off,” says Mostow. “When it gets cold, turn it on again. But don't use it for a whole six-hour drive.”

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