Typing the question of Essential oil usage for children into any search engine will be met with a flurry of contradicting answers and a flood of information. Although some sellers promote the use of Essential Oils with joyous zest, I always tread cautiously with the use of essential oils for children. Essential Oils are natural, yes, but aromatherapists generally prefer the use of a hydrosol over an essential oil for children under the age of 2. There are no peer-reviewed medical studies to either prove (or disprove) the safety for young children and there are no guidelines on using these oils with infants or toddlers.
Each person, especially children is unique, and generally labelling oils as “safe” for everyone can carry a risk, as each oil will interact differently with certain drugs and certain specific health conditions.
It is also noted that the essential oil range carries diverse properties and two oils from the same family, such as a “leaf oil” versus a “bark oil” can have vastly different effects on the skin and senses. It is a vital exercise not to just look at the benefits of each oil, but also the risk-factors, safety and side effects.
Some tips for choosing the right essential oil
· Purity. Oils that contain only aromatic plant extracts, without additives, are best to use in your home environment. It is best to look for oils that has a scientific name of the oil, i.e. such as Lavandula officinalis rather than terms like “lavender essential oil.” I personally recommend to also check for the Place of Origin and a serial / batch number.
· Quality. True essential oils are oils that have not been altered within the extraction process. Pure, high quality essential oils are packed in glass, either amber or blue in colour to protect the oil. If an oil is packed in a plastic bottle, it is a sure indicator that it has been blended with a carrier oil and not pure.
· Reputation. We are blessed in South Africa to have various local brands available that is high in quality and 100% pure oils. Cheaper products may not have the desired effect and it is best to stick with reputable brands.
· Keep your essential oils out of reach of little hands, 5ml of oil that is swallowed can have disastrous consequences. Treat your oils as you would any medicine or cleaning products and chemical compounds, safely tucked away from our little explorers.
· Don’t let your child drink or consume essential oils, no matter what certain manufactures state. Swallowing can be poisonous and rather err on the cautious side when your child’s health is at stake.
· Avoid topical use for infants and toddlers, as they have thinner more porous skin.
· Diffuse is best, but always keep your diffuser in a well-ventilated space in your home. Avoid using a diffuser in a child’s bedroom and never close a child or pet in a room with a running diffuser. Children and pets must be able to leave a room if they start feeling uncomfortable with the diffused oils.
· Keep an eye for reaction, a good indicator is merely a child stating that they do not like an oil: stop! Severe reactions include coughing, nausea, vomiting, headache, sleepiness. If there are any difficulty breathing, seizures or loss of consciousness; get to a doctor as urgently as you possible can.
· Certain oils are best to avoid with children. Always treat Essential Oils with respect and caution. The following Essential Oils are reputed to cause skin irritation, breathing difficulties, uncomfortable cooling effects, changes in alertness, or increased blood pressure. This list includes (but is not limited too)
o Basil Essential Oil
o Bay Essential Oil
o Birch Sweet Essential Oil
o Camphor Essential Oil
o Cardamom Essential Oil
o Cinnamon Essential Oil (Bark or Leaf)
o Clove Bud Essential Oil
o Cumin Essential Oil
o Fennel Essential Oil
o Garlic Essential Oil
o Oregano Essential Oil
o Rosemary Essential Oil
o Sage Essential Oil
o Tarragon Essential Oil
o Thyme Essential Oil
o Wintergreen Essential Oil
o Peppermint Essential Oil must not be used for children under 30 months of age (2.5 years) or Moms who are Breastfeeding.
What oils can I use safely?
For Anxiety, Emotional distress, crying or insecurity:
Lavender, Lemon, Roman Chamomile and Neroli are safe options to use for more emotional upheavals. Orange can also have a very uplifting effect
Neroli and Roman Chamomile can assist with colicky symptoms
Chamomile, Lavender, Naartjie or Sweet Orange can help to make bed time a much more relaxed part of the evening
Nausea and fatigue:
Peppermint (for children over 30 months old), ginger and Naartjie can help ease nausea symptoms.
Lavender or Peppermint can help (Peppermint only for children over 30 months old.)
Congestion, Cough, Spasms, Phlegm, Colds and Flu, Allergies:
Naartjie, Tea Tree, Lemon and Lavender
Basil oil has been known to help repel insects. Citronella is an insecticide and it is best to avoid using it on children younger than 6 months.
Essential Oils can make a remarkable difference in any family’s life, as long as it is treated with respect and used with care. Enjoy the benefits and reap the rewards of pure blessings from Mother Nature.