Essential oils are super popular these days, and for good reason. From freshening the air with diffusers to helping you relax with beauty products, essential oils can seriously improve your day. But if you have little kids or grandkids that spend lots of time in your home, some essential oils might cause them a lot more harm than good.
If you’re scratching your head in confusion right now, you’re not alone. According to the National Capital Poison Center, lots of people think essential oils are completely harmless since they’re natural and come from plants. But the truth is that anyone of any age can be allergic to anything, even if other people have no reaction. And since children have thin skin and immature livers, they can be much more vulnerable to potentially toxic effects than adults.
As Dr. Justin Loden, a certified specialist at Tennessee Poison Center, explained in an interview with Parents: “The rule of thumb in toxicology is ‘the dose makes the poison,’ so all essential oils are potentially harmful. In children, poisoning typically occurs when they try to swallow the oil, but choke so that a little of it goes into the lungs, which causes pneumonia; it only takes less than half a teaspoonful to do that.”
There are a few essential oils known to be especially dangerous for youngsters, even in tiny doses. These oils include: camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, wintergreen, nutmeg, sage, and pennyroyal. So definitely avoid using these around the kiddos at all costs.
Signs and symptoms of essential oil poisoning in kids include: breathing problems, agitation, chemical burns, and hallucinations. In some serious cases, there may even be seizures, brain swelling, or liver failure. If you suspect your child or grandchild is in danger, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 as soon as possible.
But of course, ideally you want to avoid ever having this problem in the first place. So if you use essential oils, keep them out of reach of children, safely stored away in a locked cabinet where kids can’t smell (or taste) them.
While certain essential oils may be good for some children (for example, some kids benefit from the soothing Roman chamomile oil) you should always check with a doctor before trying one out. And even if you get the OK, you should still only use oils that are in a highly diluted form or part of a very small percentage in a professionally-formulated essential oil blend, according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.
Better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to children’s health!