A major new warning has been issued over a 'flammable eczema cream' after dozens of people had died or had been seriously injured across the UK in the last decade.

Here's what you need to know.

What happened?

According to health and fire chiefs, more than 50 people have died or been seriously injured in the last decade after their emollient cream dried on bed sheets or clothing and then set alight.

The cases have prompted a warning by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), who said that skin creams which have dried on fabric can lead to fire deaths.

It has joined with the National Fire Chiefs Council, Fire and Rescue Services and health charities to raise awareness among people who use emollients.

The moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it are frequently used to help manage conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis.

How can the skin cream be involved in starting a fire?

The new campaign has highlighted how some skin cream products, when dried on to fabric, can create a highly flammable combination that can cause serious injury and death.

They can easily transfer from skin to clothing or bedding, which can build up.

If this fabric with dried-on cream comes into contact with a naked flame, it is highly flammable.

Officials have also warned that some creams even remain seeped in the fabric when it is washed.

How can people reduce their risk of a fire happening?

People can minimise their risk by removing long-sleeved or loose clothing before cooking or using a safety lighter.

How many people have died or been hurt as a result of the incidents?

The MHRA said that since 2010, more than 50 deaths and serious injuries in the UK have been linked to the use of emollient skin creams which have dried into fabric and then set alight.

Who is most at risk?

A review has shown that those most at risk tend to be:

  • Those over the age of 60
  • Those who are smokers
  • Those who have reduced mobility

Anyone who uses the creams and in these groups is being encouraged to arrange a fire service assessment of their personal surroundings.

They must exercise caution when close to naked flames, the health body added.

What have experts said?

Sarah Branch, director of MHRA’s Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines Division, said: “We want to ensure that those who are at greatest risk, and their carers, understand the fire risk associated with the build-up of residue on clothing and bedding and take action to minimise the risk.

“Anyone who uses emollients and has any questions or concerns should speak to a healthcare professional, such as your pharmacist or GP.”

What have the National Fire Chiefs Council Home Safety Committee said?

Rick Hylton, lead of the National Fire Chiefs Council Home Safety Committee, added: “We now know that all emollients, combined with factors such as smoking or mobility issues, pose potential fire risks and this applies to both paraffin and paraffin-free products. Washing fabrics does not fully remove this risk.

“This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t use these products but we urge people to follow the updated fire safety advice.

“If you use these products and smoke, don’t do so when wearing clothes or bandages that may have dried on emollients.

“Don’t smoke in bed as bedding may have residue on it and be careful around other heat sources such as gas, halogen or open fires and when cooking.”