Emollient and skin creams

Emollient and skin creams

Fire Kills - Protect your home with a smoke alarm graphic

It's important to be aware of the fire safety risks if you or a person you care for needs to use emollient and skin creams. Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service have put together a few tips to help reduce the potential fire risks.

What is an Emollient Cream?

Emollient and skin creams are an important and effective treatment used to prevent or treat dry skin conditions like:

  • Eczema
  • Bed sores
  • Ulcers
  • Psoriasis

They come in a variety of forms: creams, lotions, ointments, gels or sprays. They can also include soap alternatives. They may be water-based, contain paraffin or natural oils. All cover the skin with a protective film to reduce water loss. Emollients and skin creams alone are not flammable. However, a build-up of emollient/skin cream residue (even from just one application) on fabrics such as bedding, clothing and dressings, can increase flammability. These are especially a fire safety concern when used by people who spend extended periods in a bed or armchair due to illness or impaired mobility.

What is the risk?

Regular use of these products, which may or may not contain paraffin, over a number of days, can lead to them soaking into your clothing, bedding and bandages/dressings. This residue then dries within the fabric. If you then introduce an ignition source such as:

  • Accidentally dropping a cigarette, lighted match or lighter
  • Sitting too near to a gas, halogen or open fire
  • Catching your clothing on a hob whilst cooking you can cause a fire to develop, burn intensely and spread rapidly.

This could lead to serious injury or death. Nationally there have been at least 56 deaths associated with emollient skin products within the last 10 years.

What can you do to reduce the risk?

  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Do not cook with gas or electric hobs, if there is any chance your clothing or dressings could be contaminated with these products.
  • Do not sit too close to any open fires or halogen heaters.
  • Wash you clothing and bedding daily at the highest temperature recommended by the fabric care instructions. This should reduce some of the contamination but will not remove it completely as washing fabrics are not likely to completely remove the contamination and therefore the fire risk.

MHRA NFCC fire risk of emollients - YouTube