Fabrics such as clothing or bedding can absorb emollient creams and catch fire more easily in some cases, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned.

Emollient creams are used to treat dry and itchy skin conditions.

MHRA has recommended that emollient products should carry warning about the fire hazard on labels along with product information. The labelling should feature clear advice to not smoke or go near naked flames and carry information about the risk of severe burn injury or death when fabrics with emollients dried on them are accidentally ignited.

Emollients are moisturising creams applied to skin to soothe and hydrate it. They form a protective film that helps to trap moisture.

Emollients are used to treat dry, itchy or scaly skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis.

Although the chance of fabric that has been in contact with emollient products catching fire through someone smoking or being near a naked flame is low, it could cause severe burns and may even result in death if such a fabric catches fire.

According to MHRA, users also need to be aware that fabrics that have come into contact with an emollient can be highly flammable, even after washing.

“We don’t want to unduly worry people into not using these products, but it is equally important people are aware of the risks and take steps to mitigate them.”

This risk is sufficiently higher when emollients are applied in substantial quantities or in large areas of the body.

After an extensive review of the available evidence, the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) gave some recommendations.

According to the recommendations, outer packaging and product containers should include a warning about the fire hazard and advice not to smoke, along with a short explanatory text and a picture warning prominently.

The patient information leaflet or instructions for use and the summary of product characteristics (SmPC) should be updated to include warnings about the risk and how best to minimise it, CHM suggested.

MHRA’s vigilance and risk management of medicines division director June Raine said: “We don’t want to unduly worry people into not using these products which offer relief for what can be chronic skin conditions, but it is equally important people are aware of the risks and take steps to mitigate them.”

Currently, the MHRA and industry are working to apply the CHM recommendations and develop ways to ensure warning features prominently on packaging. Furthermore, a specific stakeholder group is being set up to manage education and awareness of this issue.

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