Emollients and fire risks

NHS Improvement and the MHRA have been reminding healthcare professionals of the fire risks that paraffin-based skin products can cause, following a number of serious incidents and a recent fatality.

However, new information about the risk of severe and fatal burns indicates that previous warnings should also extend to paraffin-free emollients – not just paraffin containing products.

When patients are being treated with or regularly using an emollient product that is covered by a dressing or clothing, there is a danger that smoking or using a naked flame could cause the dressings or clothing to catch fire.

Community pharmacy teams have a role to play in advising patients not to smoke; use naked flames (or be near people who are smoking or using naked flames); or go near anything that may cause a fire while emollients are in contact with their medical dressings or clothing.   There is of course an important balance to strike when counselling people on these risks, to ensure patients do not stop using the products out of fear (which could worsen their condition).

Find out more in Drug Safety Update


Useful resources which pharmacy teams can distribute when counselling their patients on the risks include posters, stickers and patient leaflets developed by the NPSA.  Teams may wish to record in their PMR system each time these are distributed.

Paraffin safety resources

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has produced an informative video about the risk of fire associated with paraffin-based products aimed at healthcare professionals.  You can watch the video below, or access it on YouTube.

The National Pharmacy Association provides patient safety reports, guidance and Standard Operating Procedure templates for community pharmacies with less than 50 branches. An SOP template on supplying paraffin-based skin products is available on the safety section of their website.