Jul 29, 2020
BAD statement on fire risk associated with emollient use
Today, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), in partnership with the National Fire Chiefs Council, has launched a new campaign to raise awareness around the potential fire risks of emollients (moisturisers) often used in the management of skin disease.
Inflammatory skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis are very common, and emollient therapy is the most common form of treatment. For most patients, emollients represent a safe treatment option. That said, it is important that patients, carers, and healthcare professionals are aware of the potential fire risks associated with these products, and how to minimise them. It is important to stress that emollients are not flammable in themselves, nor when they are on the skin. The risk comes when emollient residue dries onto fabrics such as clothing or bedding and then comes into contact with a naked flame or lit cigarette causing them to catch fire .
To reduce the fire risk, patients using these products are advised to avoid naked flames completely, including smoking cigarettes and being near people who are smoking or using naked flames. It is also advisable to wash clothing and bed linen regularly.
It is important to stress that patients should continue using their emollients as prescribed, and that doctors should continue to prescribe these treatments, where appropriate. We would strongly urge that patients avoid stopping any medication suddenly, without speaking with a medical professional first.
As smoking is a risk factor in these cases, patients who do smoke should be offered access to help and advice on how to stop.
Dr Tanya Bleiker, President of the British Association of Dermatologists, said:
“For people that regularly use emollients to treat a skin condition, it’s important to be aware of the fire risk associated with them. We’d encourage people to continue using their emollients as prescribed whilst taking necessary precautions to minimise the risk of fire such as avoiding smoking, making sure creams don’t come into contact with furniture, and regularly washing bedding and clothing.”
Andrew Proctor, Chief Executive of the National Eczema Society, said:
“People with eczema should not be put off using emollients because of any misunderstanding of risks. Millions of people use emollients safely every day to manage their eczema and have done so for years. Emollients are a vital first-line treatment for eczema, helping repair and protect the skin barrier. The overall risk of emollient-related fire injuries or deaths is extremely low for those who do not come into contact with naked flames or other potentially flammable heat sources. Doctors and nurses must continue prescribing emollients for eczema – the clinical guidance on emollient use has not changed.”
As part of the campaign, the MHRA produced the below video on the safe use of emollients.
Patients may notice several changes following this campaign:
- Outer packaging and product containers should include a warning about the fire hazard, with the advice not to smoke or go near naked flames
- Where available, patient information leaflets (and similar documents) will be updated to include warnings about the risk and how best to minimise it
For further information, please visit the MHRA guidance on the safe use of emollient skin creams to treat dry skin conditions here.