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Using Emollient Creams Safely

Emollient Creams

Emollient creams are moisturisers which may contain paraffin, shea or cocoa butter, beeswax, lanolin, nut oil or mineral oils and they work by covering the skin with a protective film or barrier which keeps the moisture in.

Many emollient creams are available to purchase over the counter at your local chemist or supermarket for conditions such as dry chapped hands, nappy rash or eczema.  They are also commonly prescribed by GPs, nurses and other clinicians for long term skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and sores.

Are they safe to use?

Emollient creams are safe to use and we encourage their use as recommended by medical professionals and the manufacturer’s instructions but want people to be aware of the potential risks, and take steps to stay safe. 

Why are emollient creams a fire risk?

Emollient creams are not a fire risk in the container as they contain other ingredients. If you put a match to the cream it would not ignite.

Emollient creams can pose a risk if people are using them regularly, over a number of days as they are likely to soak into bedding, clothing, nightwear, dressings or bandages. The residue that dries into the material can than make it highly flammable.

If you then introduce an ignition or heat source accidentally, you can cause a fire to develop burn intensely and spread rapidly. This could lead to a serious injury or death. Nationally, there have been a number of fire deaths associated with emollient skin products.

Accidental fires can be started by

  • Dropping a cigarette, lighted match or lighter
  • Sitting too near to a gas, halogen or open fire
  • Catching your clothing on a hob when cooking

How to keep yourself and others safe

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

 

graphic on red background showing dangers of emollient cream use

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