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Author: Dr Isabelle Lewis, House Officer, Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand. DermNet New Zealand Editor in Chief: Hon 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 the skin, as well as onto dressings and clothing. Paraffin-soaked fabrics are easily ignited with a naked flame or cigarette resulting in serious thermal burns or death.
Patients should be informed of the fire hazard associated with paraffin-based products when they are first prescribed, 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 there have been 37 fire deaths in England since 2010 that have been linked to these creams.
Less greasy emollient creams with a lower fire hazard may be suitable alternatives.
Paraffin-based emollients and the risk of severe and fatal burns — Prescriber Update, Medsafe New Zealand June 2019
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