Emollient products and fire safety
Emollient products such as creams, sprays, liquids or gels are safe to use and they are vital for the skin conditions that they treat.
When emollient products get onto bedding, clothing, bandages or other fabrics, the dried residue will make the fabric more flammable.
This means that if a heat or ignition source, such as a cigarette, comes into contact with the fabric it will catch fire more easily and the fire will burn faster and hotter.
This risk exists in emollients that contain paraffin and in those that don’t.
If there is any risk that your clothes, bedding, bandages or other fabrics ar0e contaminated with emollient residue, follow the fire safety advice below:
- Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, and you want to quit, the best way to do so is a combination of medication and support. Visit the NHS Smokefree website (Link opens new window) for more information
- Keep away from anyone else that is smoking
- Don’t go near naked flames, smoking materials, cookers, heaters and other ignition sources
- Wash your clothes, bedding and fabrics at the highest temperature recommended on the fabric care label. This will reduce the emollient residue but be aware that it may not totally remove it. Therefore, remain cautious and stay away from fire
- Make sure you have a working smoke alarm on every floor of your home and test it weekly. If you can’t test it, ask someone you know and trust to test it for you
- If you would be unable to escape without help in the event of a fire, talk to your care provider, or the fire service, about linking your smoke alarms to a telecare system
Fire safety advice for those caring for emollient users
If you are responsible for caring for somebody who uses emollient products, such as creams, sprays, liquids or gels, your risk assessments and care provision should take into account the fire risk and fire safety advice described above.
This is especially important if the person is a smoker or oxygen user, has a condition that could cause memory loss, confusion or drowsiness, or would be unable to respond if a fire started. You should:
- ensure that the person using the emollient product is aware of the fire risk and is provided with fire safety advice as appropriate
- ensure that risk information is shared appropriately with family members and/or others who provide care or services to the person
- put in additional control measures if the person is unwilling or unable to implement the fire safety advice. For example, if a person who uses an emollient is unwilling or unable to stop smoking, you will need to talk to them about measures such as a smoking apron or supervised smoking practice
- make sure there is appropriate smoke detection in place. In a domestic property, there should be a minimum of one working smoke alarm on every floor of the home. It may be advisable to fit additional alarms depending on risk
- advise the person you care for to test their alarms weekly. If they are unable to do this, test them for the person or identify somebody else who can do this on a weekly basis
- if they would be unable to escape without help in the event of a fire, identify an appropriate solution for raising the alarm. For example, smoke detection linked to a tele-care system
If you are prescribing or dispensing emollient products
Those that prescribe, dispense and apply these products should tell their patients/customers about the fire risk and associated fire safety advice.
Prescribers who have switched patients to a lower paraffin product or a paraffin-free alternative should be aware that this will not reduce the risk.