Emollient creams: Are they a fire risk?


​Emollient skin products are widely prescribed and dispensed for various skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, bed sores and ulcers. They are safe to use but can pose a fire risk. How can you make sure you stay safe? Read on to find out.

What are emollient skin products?
They 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.

Are they only prescribed by doctors?

Emollients are commonly prescribed by GPs, nurses and other clinicians over long periods of time to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and sores. Many of these products can also be purchased over the counter in chemists and supermarkets.

Are they safe to use?

Yes they are. We encourage their use as recommended by medical professionals and the manufacturer’s instructions.

Are they flammable?

No. If you put a match to a sample of emollient skin product it would not ignite.

So why should I be concerned?

Regular use of these products, 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 or heat source such as accidentally you can cause a fire to develop, burn intensely and spread rapidly. This could be caused 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.

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

What can I do to make sure I’m safe?

Fortunately there are simple steps you can take to ensure that you and your family stay 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.

What can I do to make sure my friends and family are safe?

Share this information with them so that they are also aware of the potential risks.

© Copyright Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service
Accessibility Statement