The safe use of skin creams, emollients and oxygen therapy

    Friday, April 09, 2021

    Oxygen can react with products that have paraffin, petroleum jelly or any oil-based products in them.

    This information is guidance to provide and raise awareness about the use of emollients and the risks with oxygen. Any reference to products mentioned in this literature is not endorsed by Dolby Vivisol. It is important that you speak to your healthcare team or pharmacist if you require specific advice.

    Emollient: a preparation that softens the skin.

    Many skin creams, ointments, lotions, gels, bath oils, lip balms and make up contain emollients. They are usually used to manage dry skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis.

    The Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have released guidance and a campaign in 2020 on the safe use of emollients and creams. Emollients are not flammable in themselves. However, they act as an accelerant, increasing the speed of ignition and intensity of the fire when the fabric with residue dried on it is ignited.

    The link to this important information: 

    Some prescription topical medications might have a petroleum or paraffin base. Your treatment is important, but it is essential that you are kept safe when using these products. Please follow advice, from either the pharmacist or healthcare team, to ensure you are treated safely. If you have any queries about your prescription medication you should consult your healthcare team or pharmacy.


    Home oxygen users 

    As a home oxygen user, we advise that if it is necessary for you to use an emollient, you use a minimal amount and ensure that it is rubbed in well. You should not touch any oxygen equipment until you have washed your hands thoroughly.

    Skin products containing white soft paraffin, petroleum jelly or emulsifying ointment saturate your hair, clothing, bedding and bandages making them potentially more flammable. You should keep away from fire or sources of ignition if you are using these products and follow guidance on how to use emollients, if they are necessary, as safely as possible.

    The use of massage oils should be carefully considered.

    British Thoracic Society (BTS) guidelines on home oxygen therapy 2015 also state that only water-based products should be used on the hands and face or inside the nose while using oxygen.

    If possible you should only use a water-based product on the face, hands or inside of the nose.

    KY-jelly or AquaGel are water-based and can be used on the inside of the nose if it is dry. Please do not apply paraffin-based products in the nasal passages as they risk blocking the nasal cannula as well as being a fire hazard.

    Avoid using oils and paraffin-based products (such as Olbas Oil or VicksVapo rub)

    Make-up and lip balms often have a paraffin or oil base so please check these before using them.

    Lotions tend to have more water and less fat than creams and maybe a better alternative. Remember many makeup products will also contain oil bases in their products.


    How to use  emollients safely

    Do not cook, go near naked flames or sources of heat such as gas, halogen, candles, electric bar or open fires whilst wearing clothing or dressings that have been in contact with emollient-treated skin. If this is not possible, take steps to reduce the risk; e.g. use a safety lighter, remove long-sleeved or loose clothing before cooking, or put on an uncontaminated shirt, overall or apron over your clothes and move your chair further away from the open fire or other heat sources.

    Change and wash your clothes frequently (preferably daily). Washing your clothes at the highest temperature recommended by the manufacturer might reduce the build-up of emollient on them but does not remove it completely and the danger may remain.

    Take care the cream doesn’t dry onto cushions, soft furnishings and bedding.

    If it does, use uncontaminated throws/covers on your seating and wash your bedding frequently to avoid the build-up of impregnated emollients.

    Tell your relatives or carers about your treatment and show them this information.


    Other safety considerations

    If you have been handling or eating greasy food ensure that you wash your hands thoroughly before touching your oxygen equipment.

    If you use alcohol gel to sanitise your hands, allow this to dry completely before handling your oxygen equipment.

    Do not use oils or grease on your oxygen cylinders.

    Remember never to smoke around oxygen.

    Contact info

    Registered Office Address:

    Dolby Medical Home
    Respiratory Care Ltd
    North Suite, Lomond Court,
    Castle Business Park, Stirling,
    FK9 4TU

    View on Map

    Registered in Scotland
    No. 063902


    Home oxygen enquiries: 0800 833 531

    Respiratory support: 0800 121 4012

    Gatwick Office Address:

    Palladian, Manor Court,
    Manor Royal, Crawley,
    RH10 9PY

    View on Map


    Home oxygen enquiries: 0800 917 9840

    Respiratory support: 0800 121 4012

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