Paraffin-based skin emollients on dressings or clothing: fire risk
Smoking or a naked flame could cause patients’ dressings or clothing to catch fire when being treated with paraffin-based emollient that is in contact with the dressing or clothing.
Reminder for healthcare professionals:
- Advise 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
- Change patient clothing and bedding regularly—preferably daily—because emollients soak into fabric and can become a fire hazard
- Incidents should be reported to NHS England’s Serious Incident Framework (includes Wales), or to the Health and Social Care Boards in Northern Ireland; for questions regarding alerts in Scotland, contact Healthcare Improvement Scotland
When patients are being treated with a paraffin-based emollient product that is covered by a dressing or clothing, there is a danger that smoking or using a naked flame could cause dressings or clothing to catch fire. We informed healthcare professionals of this risk in January 2008.
Examples of paraffin-based emollients include:
- white soft paraffin
- white soft paraffin plus 50% liquid paraffin
- emulsifying ointment
The risk is greater when these preparations are applied to large areas of the body, or when dressings or clothing become soaked with emollient.
We are aware of a recent fatal incident reported to the NHS England National Reporting and Learning System, in which a naked flame ignited emollient in contact with a patient’s dressings and clothing.
Posters have previously been available from the National Patient Safety Agency, and may be a useful source of information for local use.
Article citation: Drug Safety Update volume 9 issue 9, April 2016: 9.
Published: 18 April 2016