While dispensing emollients, pharmacists are being asked to highlight fire risks associated with emollients when dried on to fabric.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has launched an emollient fire risk campaign, in a bid to raise public awareness around the flammability of skin creams.
The regulator’s research has shown that skin creams, including those not based on paraffin, can become flammable when dried on to fabric, potentially causing serious injury or death.
Since 2010, more than 50 deaths and serious injuries have been linked to the use of emollient skin creams. A review has shown that those most at risk tend to be over 60, smokers and those with reduced mobility.
The MHRA recommends anyone in this high-risk group, or their carers, should arrange a fire service assessment of their personal surroundings.
Emollient skin creams are widely used to manage dry, itchy or scaly skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis. Such creams easily transferred from skin on to clothing and bedding.
When fabric with dried-on cream comes into contact with a naked flame, the resulting fire burns quickly and intensely and can result in serious injury or death.
“The risk increases with every application of the cream as it transfers, dries and builds up on the fabric. Some cream remains even when the items are washed, so it’s important to minimise the risk in additional ways, such as removing long sleeved or loose clothing before cooking or using a safety lighter,” MHRA has said.
These creams are vital in helping to manage dry skin conditions and are not flammable on their own, nor are they flammable when on the body.
Citing the importance of emollients, MHRA further added: “Healthcare professionals should continue to recommend them for chronic dry skin conditions and those using them should continue to do so as directed while remaining alert to the risk of fire when dried on to fabric.”