Firefighters in Cambridgeshire have warned of the hazards of using paraffin-based skin creams which have been linked to fire deaths across the country.

Older people and smokers are most at risk from using the creams which can ignite near a naked flame or cigarette - especially where there is a build-up in clothing or bedding.

Many of the emollient creams and moisturisers commonly bought in shops and chemists to treat conditions including eczema and psoriasis contain paraffin and petroleum bases which can ignite.

Group Commander Kevin Napier, head of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service community safety, said: "�Paraffin-based emollient creams can cause clothes, bandaging and fabrics to become extremely flammable and dangerous if the residue of the cream isn't thoroughly washed out after wearing.

"�Due to the content of the cream it requires extremely thorough washing at higher temperatures to remove residue and prevent build up over time."

Mr Napier said: "�If you do smoke, ensure that any smoking materials are fully extinguished, preferably in a metal container, and don't smoke while you are in bed.

"�Older people and those with mobility problems are among the most at risk of fires in the home, so it's important that they are aware of the dangers, along with their family, friends and carers.�"

There have been a number of fire deaths recorded across England as a result of cream-soaked materials catching fire.

The fire service said people treating skin conditions often wore the cream over large areas of their bodies, increasing the risk of harm.

The cream can soak into clothes, dressings, bedding and some mattresses, which then become highly flammable. Smokers face a high risk because a fire caused by a dropped cigarette can spread rapidly if the cream is present.

Clothing, bedding and dressings should be washed at high temperatures to reduce the risk of fire and users have been advised to switch to non-flammable brands.

Users were also advised to avoid leaving electric blankets switched on overnight.

For more information on keeping safe around the home, or to book a Safe and Well visit from the fire service, go to http://www.cambsfire.gov.uk/caring-for-the-elderly-509.aspx, or call 01480 444 500.