While essential oils continue to gain popularity worldwide as an alternative or compliment to medical and pharmaceutical drug centered treatments; it is vitally important that proper care and caution are used where children are concerned. I have been teaching about and treating children since 1990 with great success and happy to report no negative effects from my own practice or that of thousands of students I have trained. The focus of this writing is on children infant to 5 years old. I have established a set of rules for what to do and not to do with elaboration for each area.
1st Rule – If you have no formal training in the use of essential oils, do not attempt to use them on your children. Consult a professional. Please stay away from multi-level essential oil reps that have no other proper or independant training and please do not follow the advice of individuals that post “handy tips” on the internet or social media without carefully checking the source. Many people are just passing on incorrect or dangerous information without any examination or critical analysis of content. Several documented cases exist of the damage that has been done in these situations. Always check the source, and just because someone may be a doctor or have several initials after their name does not mean that they have specific experience with children or essential oils. Being “a mom” does not qualify either. You still need to have some understanding of anatomy, pathology and essential oil chemistry.
2nd Rule – Never, ever give essential oils to a child internally! This should be a rule for virtually all treatment with essential oils on anyone but absolutely essential to follow with infants. Not well diluted and certainly not full strength.
3rd Rule – Never, ever put pure essential oils full strength or undiluted on a child’s skin. Once again, this should be a rule for virtually all treatment with essential oils on anyone but absolutely essential to follow with infants.
4th Rule – Never, ever put essential oils pure or diluted in a child’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth, rectum or vagina. These areas are hypersensitive compared to the skin so even diluted oils can cause serious discomfort.
5th Rule – Always be careful of anything you put on your child’s skin. Whatever you put on your child’s skin will end up in their mouth, ear, nose and other orifices courtesy of those active and curious hands. If you are a parent, this should be self-explanatory.
6th Rule – More is Not Better. When properly trained, you will realize how little oil is required and how heavily diluted oils will do a great job for most issues. A child’s skin regenerates very quickly therefore is very sensitive and highly absorbent. The amount of actual essential oil you would require is quite minuscule. I have included a basic chart at the bottom of this article as a guide.
7th Rule – Be careful about Your Choice of Oils. Of the hundreds of commercially available essential oils, the number of oils that are safe for children could be counted on two hands. Many essential oils are classed as skin irritants, both moderate and severe, semi toxic or toxic. Others have “contraindications” which may negatively affect your child. Stay with essential oils that have little to no safety issues or are considered GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe). See details below for safe choices.
8th Rule – Do not subject your child to strong or direct inhalations of pure oils. Those tiny lungs are fragile and need only gentle attention. Do not place pure essential oils within a few feet of their nose. Avoid many oils which are considered camphoraceous such as pine, spruce, rosemary, marjoram, peppermint and eucalyptus globulus. These are too harsh for their respiratory system. Do not flood their room with large amounts of any essential oil in vaporizers or diffusers. This can cause a spasm effect in the lungs and irritation in the eyes. Only a few drops per day are needed to clear the room and provide gentle healing effects. I have provided details further in the article of some effective oils which are safe.
9th Rule – Do not put essential oils in a baby’s bath water. Essential oils will not mix with water and will float on top causing unfortunate contact with their skin. A child’s pores are open due to the warmth of the water which can make it worse. Hydrosols are a safe and effective choice.
10th Rule – Put your focus on carriers, not essential oils. Natural Carriers (products which are used to dilute essential oils) alone are safer and much more effective than you think. A child’s skin is highly absorbent and regenerates at a quick pace. Products such as fractionated coconut (nature’s baby oil), avocado oil, unscented plant based creams, lotions and non-petroleum ointment bases can work wonders for basic skin problems without essential oils. Please avoid commercial baby oils as they are petroleum based.
So now that you know what you are supposed to do and not do, what are the options for care? Here are a few safe instructions.
Safe Oils List
As mentioned earlier, there are only a handful of essential oils which are safe to use with children and only when heavily diluted.
Chamomile Roman 10%, Immortelle 10%, Neroli 10%, Rose 10%, Sandalwood 10%. While these oils are available in pure form, it is not necessary and very costly. The 10% diluted oils will work just fine. These 10% oils are to be treated as pure and heavily diluted before use. They are very effective in lotions and massage or bath oils. They can also be used as gentle inhalants in the room for sleep.
Geranium, lavender (alpine), petitgrain – Other safe oils which can be used as gentle inhalants or heavily diluted in carriers
Bergamot, Orange – Gentle inhalation only
Hydrosols – These are considered the “gentle or subtle ” aromatherapy. They are a by- or co-product of distilling plant material to obtain an essential oil. The water left over will contain some aromatic and medicinal properties which are perfect for children. Use them in baths, diffusing, added to creams and lotions for a healing effect . They can’t be mixed with other oils such as coconut or grapeseed. Some of the best include lavender, chamomile, rose and sweetgrass.
Inhalations – As mentioned earlier, only a few drops per day or at a time are warranted in most cases. I don’t recommend a vaporizer as the oils will oxidize quickly and the added heat with steam causes an aggressive effect. A few drops in a glass of water near a heat vent or fan will do just nicely and the oil will last longer. Some safe suggestions are:
Calming /Sleep: chamomile, geranium, lavender, petitgrain, sandalwood, neroli
Congestion: bergamot, orange, petitgrain
Bath – I don’t advise essential oils in a bath for children. As I mentioned previously, a good alternative are hydrosols; which is the water left over from the distillation of essential oils. Often referred to as the “gentle aromatherapy” these waters still have some subtle aromatic and healing properties. Just make sure you are buying a pure hydrosol and not one manufactured from essential oils. I specifically recommend chamomile, rose and lavender hydrosols. Add a bit of glycerine to the water for extra soothing and hydration.
Topical Solutions – As previously mentioned, your carriers are very effective on their own. Use fractionated coconut oil in place of baby oil. You can add in a bit of avocado, St. Johns Wort or hemp seed oil for extra healing effect and to soothe dry skin. Please avoid nut oils such as almond, hazelnut, or macadamia in case of allergies.
Natural plant based creams and lotions are great to use to keep skin moisturized. Avoid most commercial creams as they will usually contain petroleum by-products. You can add small amounts of previous mentioned carriers to the cream for extra nourishment. When using these carriers with essential oils topically, here is a safe schedule to follow:
Up to 1 yr – 1 drop essential oil in 100 ml carrier
1 – 2 yrs – 2 drops essential oil in 100 ml carrier
2 – 3 yrs – 3 drops essential oil in 100 ml carrier
3 – 4 yrs – 4 drops essential oil in 100 ml carrier
4 – 5 yrs – 5 drops essential oil in 100 ml carrier
If you have a natural non-petroleum ointment, add carriers such as calendula or avocado oil to sooth dry chapped diaper rash. I don’t recommend any essential oil for this application as the diaper acts as a compress and can force the oil into the skin causing an unwanted reaction.
As you can see, large amounts of essential oils are not required, and there are many other natural options that can be used. Everyone wants to to do the best for their children and it can be quite upsetting when something you are told to do for your child goes wrong. Sometimes the simplest and smallest amounts are really the best option. When in doubt, it is always important to err on the side of caution or consult a professional. I have included a few links to some of my other articles to further explain this content. It is worth the time to read when children are concerned.
Nascent Naturals Inc.
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