Author: Isabelle Lewis, House officer, Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand. DermNet New Zealand Editor in Chief: A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand. September 2017.
Paraffin–based ointments and creams are often used to treat common skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis. Unfortunately, they are potential fire hazards. Ointments and creams are applied directly onto skin, as well as onto dressings and clothing, and are easily ignited with a naked flame or cigarette resulting in serious thermal burns or death.
The risks include:
Patients should be informed of the associated fire hazard of paraffin based products when they are first prescribed them, both in an inpatient and outpatient setting.
Paraffin–containing skin creams have recently come into the spotlight after being linked to several deaths from fire. One BBC article reported that since 2010 there have been 37 fire deaths in England that have been linked to the creams.
Less greasy emollient creams with lower fire hazard may be suitable.
See the DermNet NZ bookstore.
© 2019 DermNet New Zealand Trust.
DermNet NZ does not provide an online consultation service. If you have any concerns with your skin or its treatment, see a dermatologist for advice.