Emollient and skin creams

It's important to be aware of the fire safety risks if you or a person you care for needs to use emollient and skin creams– here's how to reduce potential fire risks.

Understanding and reducing the risks

What do we mean by emollient and skin creams?

Emollient and skin creams are an important and effective treatment used to prevent or treat dry skin conditions like:

  • Eczema
  • Bed sores
  • Ulcers
  • Psoriasis

They come in a variety of forms: creams, lotions, ointments, gels or sprays . They can also include soap alternatives. They may be water-based, contain paraffin or natural oils. All cover the skin with a protective film to reduce water loss.

Emollients and skin creams alone are not flammable. However, a build up of emollient/skin cream residue (even from just one application) on fabrics such as bedding, clothing and dressings, can increase flammability. These are especially a fire safety concern when used by people who spend extended periods in a bed or armchair due to illness or impaired mobility.

How can you use emollient and skin creams more safely?

If you care for someone who needs emollient and skin creams, lotions or gels, or if you use these products yourself, you can help to keep them and yourself safe by understanding and reducing the related risks.

Understand the risks

Anyone using emollients or skin creams regularly should keep well away from fire, naked flames or heat sources. A build up of residue on bedding, clothing and dressings can increase flammability.

  • Don't smoke
  • Loose clothing can easily catch fire – take care not to lean over a hot hob and roll up your sleeves if possible when cooking.
  • Keep candles away from your clothing, including when lighting them.
  • Sit at least one metre away from a heater – sitting too close could easily set light to your clothes or chair. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

There is a separate page for healthcare equipment including oxygen therapy, dynamic airflow pressure relieving mattresses and incontinence products– and there is specialist advice to support you if you care for a person who is a smoker, or someone who has hoarding disorder.

Getting extra help

Get expert advice with a home fire safety visit

We can provide more specialist advice based on your home and individual needs, or the home and individual needs of the person you care for, during a home fire safety visit.

Visits can be arranged at any time (24/7), and we even fit free smoke alarms if you or the person you care for needs them. Specialist alarms can also be fitted – for example, strobe light and vibrating pad alarms for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Book a visit

Find out more about home fire safety visits and book one for the person you care for.

Home fire safety visits

Extra information for support workers and social workers

If you are a support worker providing care there are some extra steps to take:

  1. Complete the Checklist for Person-Centred Fire Risk at the bottom of this page – this will help you identify areas of risk to the person you care for.
  2. Report the risks to your line manager and ask them to discuss a referral for a free home fire safety visit with the client.
  3. Communicating with the person’s family or other supporting agencies to consider how Telecare can help to keep vulnerable people safer.
  4. Make sure that fire risk is included in the care plan for your client including things like using fire retardant bedding, appropriate management of emollient and skin creams, and how to care for people who smoke.

It's also a good idea to get some training on how to recognise fire risks. This will help you to spot signs that may indicate the person you care for is at risk of injury from fire and what steps you can take to reduce those risks. There's a good free online course available here.

e-Learning with Telecare Services


If any of these signs are combined with limited mobility – for example, if the person you care for is bed bound or spends most of their time in a chair – the person is particularly at risk.

Please consider their needs and make sure appropriate measures are taken so they can safely escape if there is fire. Learn more about escape plans from homes here, and from workplaces (like residential care homes) here.

Useful downloads

Checklist for Person-Centred Fire Risk

Download PDF (60kb)

Fire safety in the home booklet

Download PDF (3,662kb)

Means of escape for disabled people leaflet

Download PDF (900kb)

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