News

Health professionals warned to avoid flammable emollient creams

The London Fire Brigade has issued a warning to carers and health professionals about flammable creams.
Fire hazard

Health professionals and carers have been urged to stop using flammable emollient creams by the London Fire Brigade.

A total of 15 Londoners have died in the last three years in fires where it is believed that a flammable skin cream was found to have spread flames across bedsheets or clothing, according to fire brigade data.

The warning, which is crucial if the patient is known to smoke, states that many commonly used moisturising creams contain paraffin and petroleum bases.

Fire risk

The cream seeps into bedclothes and if wearers drop a cigarette, sheets and night clothes act like a wick allowing flames to quickly spread across the body.

The fire brigade, which issued the warning during carers week, explained that washing sheets and clothes at a high temperature does

Health professionals and carers have been urged to stop using flammable emollient creams by the London Fire Brigade.


Fire brigade warn about the dangers of flammable emollients. Picture: Alamy

A total of 15 Londoners have died in the last three years in fires where it is believed that a flammable skin cream was found to have spread flames across bedsheets or clothing, according to fire brigade data. 

The warning, which is crucial if the patient is known to smoke, states that many commonly used moisturising creams contain paraffin and petroleum bases.

Fire risk

The cream seeps into bedclothes and if wearers drop a cigarette, sheets and night clothes act like a wick allowing flames to quickly spread across the body.

The fire brigade, which issued the warning during carers week, explained that washing sheets and clothes at a high temperature does not always remove the residue.

Eczema and psoriasis 

Patients who have eczema and psoriasis may also apply the cream over large areas of their skin which increases their risk of harm.

London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner for fire safety Dan Daly said: ‘It’s a horrific reality but if you’re wearing creams with flammable ingredients and you accidently drop ash or a match, you are literally setting yourself on fire. 

‘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.’

Heather Bain, former chair of the Association of District Nurse Educators and programme leader at the school of nursing and midwifery at Robert Gordon University, said that fire hazards from using paraffin-based emollients are widely recognised by health professionals. 

Dr Bain added that the issue is highlighted in the British National Formulary.

Raising awareness

She said: ‘These tragic examples highlight how important it is for health professionals who prescribe these products or recommend them, to provide the required health education to patients, families and carers.

‘One must not forget that people who buy these products and are not necessarily in contact with health professionals. Public awareness campaigns need to address this aspect.’


In other news

 

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs