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.
A number of recent fatal incidents (6 in London) have been 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.
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.
The risk is greater when these preparations are applied to large areas of the body, or when dressings or clothing become soaked with emollient.
Examples of paraffin-based emollients include:
- white soft paraffin
- white soft paraffin plus 50% liquid paraffin
- emulsifying ointment
Advice is that patients should not: 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
In addition in is recommended that patients should change clothing and bedding regularly—preferably daily—because emollients soak into fabric and can become a fire hazard
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