Newsflash: Heated Car Seats Can Produce Heat, So Use Cautiously

By Blake Z. Rong | February 23, 2012
Heated seats, like McDonalds' coffee, should only be enjoyed sparingly. Two women in cold climate found this out the hard way after generating erythema ab igne across their gluteus maximuses. Erythema ab igne is a way to say "toasted skin syndrome" that will make you sound cultured and sophisticated at parties. While it's not a complete first- or second-degree burn—a third-degree burn most likely means your car is on fire—it can lead to pain, itchiness, and lesions on the skin. Heated car seats can reach temperatures of 110 degrees, and continuing exposure to moderate heat can cause pigment change. The two women who had received these injuries had left the heated seats on an hour a day for four months, and 120 straight hours, respectively. "You get more severe cases with longer exposure," said dermatologist Dr. Eliot Mostow. "But to be honest, everybody's different. Some people will get it sooner with the exact same exposure." Mostly, erythema ab igne only shows up when using electric blankets, heating pads, and hot water bottles—you know, continuing exposure to the skin, usually bare. But the temptation for driving around with heated seats is alluring: on a cold day, most drivers switch it on when they start the car and simply leave it on. "I've seen plenty of cases of erythema ab igne over the years but this is the only case I've seen that's stemmed from a heated car seat," said Mostow. "It's a combination of duration and repeated use, long-term use." Is toasted skin syndrome the latest threat to put our children and elderly at risk? Not quite—one of the women, who was 40, experienced a little color change and a bit of itching that went away after a week despite the ongoing and lingering social effects that come with constantly scratching one's butt. The 67-year old woman gained brown lesions on her legs, and the dermatologists who examined her believe that the color changes will be permanent. At Automotive.com, we recommend placing heated seats in the same category as chocolate and Home Improvement marathons: enjoy sparingly, lest they become a detriment to your health. Also, we recommend driving while wearing pants. Source: MSNBC
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