Essential Oils and Children: Safe Use

Updated: Sep 6

In this guide we will answer some very important questions in regard to essential oil safety with children and babies, diffusing around them, using it topically on their skin as well as how they can aid children of different ages for various reasons. But before we get into this information, we would like to put into perspective the unquestionably high concentration and power of essential oils’ phytochemicals[1].


How much plant material is needed to make a small amount of essential oil?


  • Lavender, for instance, needs 30 lbs of plant material for one 15 ml bottle.

  • You would need approximately 90 lemons to make 1 oz of essential oil.

  • Even more astounding, to make a single drop of rose oil you need approximately 30 rose petals.


Here are a few simple rules to follow:


  • Keep all essential oils stored out of reach of children.

  • Never use essential oils in nebulizers or humidifiers.

  • Avoid putting essential oils in the eyes and mucus membranes and never ingest oils unless under the care of a trained professional.

  • Some citrus and other essential oils are phototoxic.

  • Never use oils undiluted on the skin unless under the care of a trained professional.

  • Store essential oils in a cool dark place and keep them away from flames.


When is it safe to use essential oils with children?

According to NAHA, the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy:


“Infants, toddlers, and young children are more sensitive to the potency of essential oils and safe dilutions generally range from 0.5 - 2.5% depending on the condition. Certain essential oils should either be avoided, used in highly diluted form under the guidance of a knowledgeable professional, or included as a minor percentage in a professionally-formulated essential oil blend. For example, special caution should be exercised with potentially toxic essential oils such as Birch and Wintergreen which are both high in methyl salicylate, Eucalyptus which is high in 1,8 cineole and Peppermint which is high in menthol.”[2]

Here are a few guiding principles to keep in mind when it comes to using essential oils safely with children. For children under the age of 2 I recommend being extra cautious due to the heightened sensitivity of small children. Here are some best practices to follow:


  • For babies under 3 months, avoid using oils near or around them. For diaper rash, use natural carrier oil, such as jojoba (which matches the sebum of our skin) & tamanu oil. Coconut oil can trap heat so when a baby's sensitive skin is irritated especially in the diaper area, avoid using it.

  • For Children under the age of 2, we recommend using hydrosols in place of essential oils as a room spray. However, if you do decide to use a room diffuser, use only one drop of essential oil and turn it off when the child is in the room.[5] (A hydrosol is an incredibly gentle water by-product that separates from the essential oil during steam distillation.)

  • Please avoid using essential oils as a teething reliever, such as Clove Oil. It's a really hot, potent and spicy oil and considered way too strong for most adults let alone small children. Instead buy a hydrosol such as German Chamomile. Freezing a cloth moistened with the hydrosol and given to the baby to chew on or frozen into a small cube to put in a mesh baby teether can be an incredible solution.

  • For children between the ages of 2-5, there is a short list of safe essential oils & we find the best way to use them is with a diffuser in a well ventilated room or with a room spray. Look into these safe essential oil singles: Cedarwood, Lavender, Frankincense, Roman Chamomile and Sweet Orange.

  • Older children between the ages of 6-10 have a much longer list of safe essential oil which include Citrus Oils such as Lemon, Bergamot, Tea Tree, Cypress, Fir, Peppermint, Pine oils, Geranium, Ylang Ylang, etc. Many citrus oils such as Lemon and Bergamot oils are phototoxic. Avoid using them on exposed skin in summer on yourself or your children (see below for a complete list of phototoxic oils).

  • According to NAHA, Peppermint oil should be used with caution.


Some essential oils can be toxic even to adults and we thought it wise to mention here to avoid using near the face and on the chest or on a child’s skin under the age of 10:

  • Birch

  • Wintergreen

  • Chaste Tree

  • Eucalyptus globulus (under age of 10) - if a child has asthma, always let a child smell this oil before using it in an oil blend. For some children, Eucalyptus globulus can restrict breathing more. We recommend instead for children over the age of 5, gentler eucalyptus oil chemotypes: Eucalyptus dives and Eucalyptus citriodora.


Is it safe to diffuse essential oils around my baby?

Babies are small, very sensitive creatures with delicate, developing systems. The potency of essential oils and the possibility of liver toxicity in babies and children should always be at the forefront of our thoughts when using essential oils. When diffusing essential oils we do not recommend running a diffuser in a room with a child under the age of 2 is present. For children between the ages 2-5, stick to using gentle oils such as Lavender oil, Cedarwood, Frankincense, Geranium-Rose, Sweet Orange and Roman Chamomile and Tea Tree.


How can essential oils help children?

Aromatherapy can be an excellent vehicle to help calm a child over the age of 2 who is anxious or under stress, to reduce nausea, to ease discomfort and pain as well as promote healthy sleep. For these specific circumstances and used at very low dilutions:


  • Roman Chamomile, Lavender and Sweet Orange essential oils can be soothing, reassuring and aid sleep. If you have a fussy baby, spray Lavender hydrosol in their room and in the crib to envelop your little one with calm. To make a diluted oil massage blend or a pillow spray for children over the age of 2, here is a dilution chart.

  • To calm a child who has a lot of energy, add grounding oils of Cedarwood and Frankincense into a room spray blend or add to a diffuser.

  • To reduce nausea, have the child inhale Ginger essential oil using an essential oil nasal inhaler.

  • For cuts and pain, a Lavender spray can work wonders on a skin wound not only to reduce pain but to aid in disinfecting the area.

  • Roman Chamomile is great as a fever reducer used as a cooling skin compress and placed on the head, under arms and back of neck.


SOURCES:

  1. How Many Pounds Of Material Does It Take To Make Essential Oils https://www.enchantedaromatics.com/how-many-pounds-does-it-take-to-make-essential-oils/

  2. Safety Information. https://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/

  3. Are Essential Oils Safe for Kids? https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/18/parenting/baby/essential-oils-babies-kids.html

  4. Recommended dilutions for children. https://tisserandinstitute.org/learn-more/recommended-dilutions-for-children/

  5. https://www.webmd.com/baby/is-it-safe-to-use-essential-oil-in-babies#:~:text=Since%20a%20baby's%20sinuses%2C%20lungs,using%20the%20full%2Dstrength%20versions



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