Safety first – Essential Oils and Children
Updated: May 24
I can understand how tempting it is to reach for an all-natural remedy when it comes to treating our little ones. Who knows what they put in all the over the counter medications, lotions and potions right? However, as with medication, we must be aware of the potential risks that natural remedies, essential oils, creams and inhalers might have.
Children don’t have the mature immune defenses that adults have and are more prone to allergies and reactions. We also have to think outside the box a bit. For instance, if you love a particular diffuser blend, you might want to check to see if the blend is safe for your child. You might both be in the room where the oils are being diffused.
See oils in the list below that must not be inhaled by children.
Some oils are safe for topical use only. While others are safe only in diffuses. I compiled a list below to jump start your own research on whether an oil is safe for your family. Diffused oils can worsen asthma or allergies. Topical treatments can cause chemical burns on young sensitive skin, especially if the oils are not properly diluted. Citrus oils can cause sun sensitivity. So, it is important to lean on the side of caution.
By law essential oil manufacturers do not have to provide an ingredient list of what is in their blended oils. So it is imperative that you buy your unadulterated oils from a reputable source. Manufacturers are also poorly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
There are no solid trials on children or sufficient scientific evidence regarding safety or efficacy on children. For this reason the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians have not recommended the use of essential oils for young children.
Always store oils away from children. Essential oils are super concentrated plant extracts and can cause severe chemical burns to young delicate skin. If you applied undiluted oregano oil to young or mature skin, you will cause a severe chemical burn. It can poison a child if they swallow it or cause damage if the oils are splashed into the eyes.
As an example, if a child under the age of five drinks camphor oil, it can cause seizures. Wintergreen oil is closely related to aspirin and can cause fever, difficulty breathing and in extreme cases, organ failure in small children.
Some oils such as Anise, Birch or Red Myrtle should not be diffused in a room with children present. While other oils should not be used topically. As with adults, every child has different needs, allergies and health concerns. The list below serves to help you start your research. If you are not sure always check with your pediatrician, a registered and certified aromatherapist or naturopath. Do your own research. Knowledge is power.
Please note: The list of oils below are all unsafe for children. When an adult uses a topical cream or oil blend that contains an oil that is harmful to a child then that adult should separate herself from the child for at least an hour. This will give the oils some time to evaporate. The stronger the solution, the longer it will take to evaporate. Teachers should never diffuse essential oils in classrooms with small children. If an adult who is around small children still wants to inhale an essential oil blend, perhaps consider a personal inhaler instead of a diffuser.
N Oils that must never be used in inhalers, diffusers or used in topical ointments for children.
NT2 Oils that must never be used topically in topical ointments for children under the age of 2 years.
Not safe for children under 2
Basil (lemon) –NT2
Black Seed –NT2
Clove Bud, Clove Leaf, Clove Stem –N and NT2
Laurel Leaf or Bay Laurel –NT2
Lemon Leaf or Lemon Petitgrain –NT2
Massoia –N and NT2
May Chang –NT2
Myrtle(lemon)/Sweet Verbena) –N and NT2
Myrtle (Lemonbalm and Honey) –N and NT2
Peru Balsam –NT2
Sage (Wild Mountain) –N and NT2
Tea Leaf or Black Tea –NT2
Tea tree (Lemon scented) –NT2
Not safe for children under 5
Anise / Aniseed -N
Anise (Star) -N
Fennel (Sweet and Bitter) -N
Myrtle (Aniseed) -N
Not safe for children under 6
Anise, Star -N
Chaste Tree -N
Galangal (Lesser) -N
Laurel Leaf or Bay Laurel
Lavender - especially pre pubescent boys
Marjoram (Spanish) -N
Sage (White and Greek)
Not safe for children under 10
Lavender - especially pre pubescent boys
(If you or someone you know has been exposed to a dangerous substance, contact poison control immediately at 1-800-222-1222 or go to poisonhelp.org for assistance.)