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Using Emollient Creams Safely

Many commonly used moisturising creams contain paraffin and petroleum bases and can be readily bought off the shelf from any supermarket or chemist.  The cream seeps into the bedclothes and if wearers drop a cigarette, sheets and night clothes act like a wick allowing flames to quickly spread across the body.  Washing sheets and clothes at a high temperature doesn’t always remove the residue and worse still, these creams help manage skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, meaning sufferers wear the cream over large areas of their skin, which increases their risk of harm.

 The people most vulnerable to fires are older people, and those with mobility problems, and it’s exactly these people who tend to rely on emollient creams. If they are smokers too, it’s a deadly combination.

Worse still, people using emollient creams tend to have beds with airflow mattresses.  In effect, the bedding with the cream soaked in, acts as a wick.  When the mattress comes into contact with a flame, the mattress essentially can act as a blow torch, intensifying the fire.

Our advice for users 


  •  smoke or allow others to smoke in your home.
  •  use any naked flame or ignition source such as matches, lighters and candles if there is any chance of your clothing being contaminated with paraffin-based cream.
  •  cook if there is any chance of your clothing being contaminated with paraffin-based cream.
  •  use paraffin or oil-based cream or liquid on your skin if using oxygen equipment.


  • speak to your health professional or carer about using water based creams
  • wash your bedding daily as it may have been saturated with paraffin-based cream.
  • change and wash your clothing daily as it may have been saturated with paraffin-based cream.
  • cover your furniture or airflow cushion with throws to avoid them becoming contaminated but ensure you wash the throws daily.
  • 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. For instance, if you are prescribed medication that cause drowsiness, your mobility declines significantly, or you experience memory issues.
  • share this information and advice with your family and friends.

Important facts

• Using paraffin-based cream is safe unless an ignition source, such as a heater, candle or cigarette is introduced. These sources could cause a fire which may result in serious injury or death.

• Regular use of paraffin-based products could result in the contamination of your clothing and bedding which would catch fire more easily if exposed to an ignition

Useful contacts

For further information on

  • Fire safety in your home call us on 01609 780150
  •  Your oxygen equipment. Contact your oxygen provider (there should be a sticker with their number on the equipment or it will be contained within the instructions).
  • • Giving up smoking. Call the NHS Free Smoking Helpline 0300 123 1044 or see
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