Emollients are often used to help people of all ages manage dry, itchy or scaly skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. They are moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it. They cover the skin with a protective film to trap in moisture.
There is a fire risk associated with all emollients whether they contain paraffin or not. However, emollients are an important and effective treatment for dry skin conditions when used safely.
How can you use your emollients safely?
It is very important that you do the following to ensure you are kept safe whilst using these products:
- Keep away from fire, flames and cigarettes when using any type of emollient (both paraffin-based and paraffin-free). Dressings, clothing and bedding that have been in contact with an emollient can easily catch fire. The risk is greater when emollient preparations are applied to large areas of the body or when dressings and clothing become soaked with emollient.
- Change clothing and bedding regularly (preferably daily). Emollients soak into fabric and residues build-up which can increase the fire risk. Washing fabrics at high temperatures may reduce the build-up of emollients but does not remove it entirely.
- When applying emollients, take care to ensure that it does not soak into seating, soft furnishings and bedding. This is especially important if you spend extended periods in a bed or armchair due to illness or impaired mobility. A build-up of emollient residue in these fabrics can increase the risk of fire.
- Tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you normally smoke.
- They will be able to offer you help and advice to stop smoking.
- If you use home oxygen it is important not to touch, handle or operate cylinders or liquid oxygen systems when you have applied emollient products to your hands. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry thoroughly before handling any oxygen-based equipment.
- Tell your relatives or carers about your treatment. Those who care for you can help to keep you safe by understanding and reducing the related risks. The outer packaging and product containers of your emollients should include a warning about the fire hazard.
- Get expert fire safety advice. Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service can provide specialist advice for you and your home during a free Safe and Well visit. Find out more on their website at or call them.
You can download a patient or carers information leaflet from the related documents tab on the right hand side of this webpage.
About the ‘Using Emollients Safely’ campaign
The ‘Using Emollients Safely’ campaign launched in October 2019 providing support and advice to the public and health professionals on the importance of using emollients safely to help prevent fire risk.
The campaign was developed by local health and educational partners including Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council Public Health, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and NHS health providers.
The campaign includes a range of resources including patient and carer information leaflets, posters, branded pharmacy bags, a communications toolkit and social media assets. You can access these on the related documents tab on the right hand side of this webpage.