Thoughtful Parenting: Essential oil safety and kids | SteamboatToday.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Essential oil safety and kids

Torrey DeMoss
Steamboat Pilot & Today

Poisoning due to accidental ingestion of toxic household substances is not uncommon in infants and small children.  Essential oils, often considered innocuous, are no exception.  Danger to children can occur when concentrated oils are accidentally swallowed, spilled on the skin or splashed in the eyes. 

Derived from plants, essential oils are used in homemade and commercial perfumes, cosmetics, air fresheners and more.  However, some essential oils are poisonous if absorbed through the skin or swallowed. Evidence has shown that because of their thin skin and immature livers, children are more susceptible than adults to the toxic effects of certain oils — even small doses can cause serious illness or death in a child.  

Oil of wintergreen is used in topical preparations to relieve pain, and in trace amounts as food flavoring. It is similar to aspirin and can be fatal if swallowed, even in small amounts. One teaspoon of oil of wintergreen is equivalent to five aspirin. Seizures and altered mental status can be seen.

Eucalyptus oil is used for its scent when vaporized and inhaled during a cold. Extreme toxicity including loss of consciousness and seizures can be seen in children after just a half teaspoon ingestion.

Sage oil is used as a seasoning, scent and remedy. Just 12 drops or more of the essential oil is considered a toxic dose and can cause rapid heart rate, tremors, seizures, and kidney damage. 

Camphor oil is used as an ingredient in some skin preparations and an ingestion of just a little more than a half teaspoon can cause seizures and death. Camphor poisoning has also been reported with repeated topical application.

If you want to use essential oils on your kids, safe use and storage are extremely important. Talk to your child’s doctor first and remember the following:

  • Don’t diffuse essential oils around infants younger than 6 months.
  • Some oils can be applied to the skin of older children, but they must be diluted in carrier oils.
  • Always patch test, even diluted oils can cause skin irritation.
  • Do not use on the skin of children with eczema, sensitive skin or other chronic skin conditions.
  • Never flavor your child’s food or drink with essential oils, even if labeled as food safe.
  • Never use oils as a substitute for medical care.
  • Store essential oils out of the reach of children.

In case of accidental ingestion, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 

Torrey DeMoss is a pediatric nurse practitioner and owner of Steamboat Springs Pediatric House Calls.


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