Paraffin-based skin creams are flammable – be careful
A senior firefighter has warned that regularly using skin creams containing paraffin (mainly for common skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema) may well be contributing significantly to a rise in the number of fire-related deaths in the UK.
Chris Bell, who is a watch commander with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, has said that these creams are safe to use, but has warned people using them to be extremely vigilant, as the paraffin residue from the cream can sink into fabrics and become a real fire hazard. When interviewed by Radio 5 Live, he said: “People are using paraffin-based skin products to treat eczema, psoriasis and various other skin conditions, putting it all over their bodies and different parts of themselves”. He continued: “… but unfortunately, that cream can get into fabrics, clothing, bandages and dressings, and become flammable. The creams are safe to use in their own right, but if that person is exposed to a naked flame or some other heat source, they can go up.”
Chris Bell’s warnings were shared by Mark Hazelton, from the London Fire Brigade. Mr Hazelton has explained that many fire services do not have the forensic investigation teams needed to properly assess the role of paraffin cream in fires, meaning that the number of paraffin cream linked deaths is unknown and likely to be significantly higher than previously thought.
There are several vital dos and don’ts when it comes to treating burns. Here’s what you need to know:
- Extremely carefully, remove loose clothing covering the burn (do not take clothes off if there is any risk the skin has stuck to them or if the skin has blistered)
- Put the affected area under cool running water for at least 10 minutes (ideally longer). Remember you are cooling the burn and not the casualty, so try and keep the water running over just the burnt area.
- Keep the rest of the casualty as warm and dry as possible and watch for any signs of shock.
- Phone an ambulance, particularly if a large area is affected, or if the skin is broken or blistered. Keep the area under the water while you wait for the ambulance to arrive.
A burn is measured using the size of your hand, which is roughly equivalent to 1% of your body. Therefore, a burn measuring just the size of a 50p piece or a postage stamp can be very serious for a baby or small child. Burns to the hands, face, feet, genitals, airways, or a burn that extends all the way round a limb are particularly serious.
- Remove anything that has stuck to a burn
- Touch a burn
- Burst blisters
- Apply any creams, lotions or fats
- Apply tight dressings, tapes or use anything fluffy
Always get burns assessed by a medical professional.
Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life
It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit www.firstaidforlife.org.uk and www.onlinefirstaid.com for more information about our practical and online courses and to access free resources.
First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.