Concern over flammable eczema cream on bed sheets

More than 50 people have died or been seriously injured in the last decade after their emollient cream dried on bed sheets or clothing and then set alight, health and fire chiefs have warned.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that skin creams which have dried on fabric can lead to fire deaths.

It has joined with the National Fire Chiefs Council, Fire and Rescue Services and health charities to raise awareness among people who use emollients.

The moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it are frequently used to help manage conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis.

The new campaign is highlighting how some products, when dried on to fabric, can create a highly flammable combination that can cause serious injury and death.

They can easily transfer from skin to clothing or bedding, which can build up.

And if this fabric with dried-on cream comes into contact with a naked flame, it is highly flammable.

Officials warned that some creams even remain seeped in the fabric when it is washed.

People can minimise their risk by removing long-sleeved or loose clothing before cooking or using a safety lighter.

The MHRA said that since 2010, more than 50 deaths and serious injuries in the UK have been linked to the use of emollient skin creams which have dried into fabric and then set alight.

A review has shown that those most at risk tend to be over 60, smokers and have reduced mobility.

Anyone who uses the creams and in these groups is being encouraged to arrange a fire service assessment of their personal surroundings.

They must exercise caution when close to naked flames, the health body added.

“We want to ensure that those who are at greatest risk, and their carers, understand the fire risk associated with the build-up of residue on clothing and bedding and take action to minimise the risk,” said Sarah Branch, director of MHRA’s Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines Division.

“Anyone who uses emollients and has any questions or concerns should speak to a healthcare professional, such as your pharmacist or GP.”

Rick Hylton, lead of the National Fire Chiefs Council Home Safety Committee, added: “We now know that all emollients, combined with factors such as smoking or mobility issues, pose potential fire risks and this applies to both paraffin and paraffin-free products. Washing fabrics does not fully remove this risk.

“This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t use these products but we urge people to follow the updated fire safety advice.

“If you use these products and smoke, don’t do so when wearing clothes or bandages that may have dried on emollients. Don’t smoke in bed as bedding may have residue on it and be careful around other heat sources such as gas, halogen or open fires and when cooking.”

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