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Emollients and paraffin-based skin creams

Advice on keeping safe when using emollient creams.

Emollient creams are moisturisers that play an important part of treating and preventing skin conditions including eczema, pressure sores, ulcers and psoriasis. Clothing, bedding, dressings and bandages with skin cream dried on them can catch fire easily causing severe and fatal burns.

If you use this type of skin product, you should continue to follow the guidance from your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

If you care for someone who needs emollient and skin creams, lotions or gels, or if you use these products yourself, you can help to keep them and yourself safe by understanding and reducing the risks.

If you use this type of emollient or cream regularly you should keep well away from fire, naked flames or heat sources. A build-up of these creams on bedding, clothing, dressings and bandages can increase flammability.

Following a number of fire incidents within West Sussex that were compounded by the use of emollient creams, there are a number of steps you can take to keep yourself and those you care for safe when using these creams:

  • Do not smoke, cook or go near to any naked flames or heat sources such as gas, halogen, electric bar or open fires whilst wearing clothing or dressings that have been in contact with emollient-treated skin.
  • Take steps to reduce the risk, for example, use a safety lighter or e-cigarette, remove long sleeved or loose clothing before cooking, put a thick uncontaminated shirt, overall or apron over your clothes and move your chair further away from the open fire or other heat source.
  • Change and wash clothing along with bedding daily to prevent them becoming saturated with paraffin-based cream. Washing your clothes at the highest temperature recommended by the manufacturer might reduce the build-up of emollient on them, but does not remove it completely and the danger may remain.
  • Be careful that the cream doesn’t dry onto cushions, soft furnishings and bedding. If it does, use uncontaminated throws/covers on your seating and wash your bedding frequently as above.
  • Emollient users should never be tempted to tackle a fire in their home, no matter how small it may seem; get out, stay out and call 999.
  • Tell your health care professional or carer if there is a change in your medical or health condition which might compromise your fire safety within your home.

As an emollient user, you may well qualify for a free Safe and Well Visit where we can provide you with advice and guidance on how to make your home safer and reduce fire risk.

Last updated:
19 October 2022
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