Essential Oil Safety and Children

Diffusing calming oils tames tantrums. Massaging a drop of Lavender before bedtime can prepare a peaceful child for sleep. Teething children are cranky. A cool face cloth with German Chamomile can help ease pain. Aromatherapy is a godsend for stressful moments in family life. However, when using essential oils for children, it is important not to approach it as if you were treating a small adult. Each stage of a child’s developmental journey has different requirements and considerations. Their skins are thinner, and their livers won’t fully develop until they are 8 years of age. We need to take extra care around using essential oils for children.

Unsafe Essential Oils For Children

Not every essential oil is appropriate to use on children. Here are some we suggest using with caution, or avoiding completely

The inclusion of Eucalyptus and Peppermint  as unsafe essential oils for children is controversial. The debate surrounds two molecules: 1,8 cineole found in eucalyptus, and menthol, found in mints. Both constituents oils slow breathing.

Some authorities suggest you should never use them around children, whilst others maintain that it is safe as long as you only apply the oils to the child’s back so it is away from their faces, and that you only use very small dilutions. 

Safety expert Robert Tisserand addressed the issue of avoiding the oils completely on his Facebook page, saying “these guidelines are super-safe; if anything a little over-cautious”.  

He states that Eucalyptus globulus can be diffused and used in topical applications. One or two drops in a diffuser would be considered safe, and topically, you could safely use 2 drops in 4 tsp of carrier oil.

It’s definitely not a cut and dried topic

Indeed even here within the Vinevida team there are differences in approach. I would suggest avoiding these oils, or at least minimizing their use on and around children, whereas Liz will use eucalyptus on children with acute bronchitis. She believes that since the condition is the fourth biggest cause of infant death, the benefits of using a 0.25% dilution on a hospitalized child outweigh the risks. However, as a rule she would avoid it for ordinary coughs and colds though and use frankincense or monarda essential oils for children.

Safe Essential Oils For Children Are

Safe Essential Oils For Children Is All About The Dilution

Here are some general guidelines based on guidelines from The Tisserand Institute. You may find his advice differs from other professionals since some are more cautious and some less so.  

    • For children up to 3 months of age, the safe dilution is 0.1 to 0.2%. You will find many aromatherapists, bloggers and writers err on the safe side when it comes to babies, so you will come across some saying do not use AT ALL.  
    • All oils should be avoided for premature babies.
    • For children between 3 to 24 months, a 0.25 to 0.5% dilution is considered a good approach. 
    • Children between 2 and 6 - 1 to 2% dilution
    • For children between 6 and 15, dilution ranges between 2 to 3%.

    Alternatives to Essential Oils for Children

    Hydrosols make  safe and effective alternatives to essential oils for children.  These are the waters from the distillation process. You might also see them called hydrolats, or floral waters. 

    They contain microscopic levels of essential oils left behind from the distillation process and in some cases watery “medicines” that cannot be found in essential oils.   

    Accidental Ingestion of Essential Oils for Children

    According to Tisserand, “accidental ingestion of essential oils by children of 5 or under is the most common cause of internal essential oil toxicity – more than 10 times any other age group in the USA (Gummin et al 2017). Children as young as 2 years have been known to remove bottle caps and drink most of the contents, even though the bottle may contain an orifice reducer”.  

    Keep essential oils out of reach from children, and don’t let them handle essential oils bottles unsupervised. They can easily remove the lids, and drink the contents by sucking the bottle.

    If the worst does happen, contact emergency services immediately, whether that be your local poisons center, the emergency department or by calling 9-11.

    Make sure to take the bottle of oil with you to the emergency room if you can find it. This way the doctor can check exactly what the maximum oral dilutions of the oil are and any other potential dangers. FYI: this information can be found in Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young.

    Do not induce vomiting or administer other home remedies. 

    What if My Child’s Skin Reacts To An Essential Oil?

    Sometimes redness, itchiness or blisters might appear on your child’s skin after applying essential oils. Do not use more oils to soothe the skin and don’t try to rinse them with water, since water and mix do not mix, of course. 

    Good practice is to dilute the essential oils further by smearing more carrier oil over it first, then gently wash with very soapy water. You can also apply an oatmeal preparation to the skin to absorb any left over oils and to soothe the skin. 

    I highly suggest you keep a copy of the guidance on the Tisserand Institutes safety page in your essential oil box or in your medicine cabinet.

    Read more from Tisserand here: What to do when experiencing an adverse reaction.

    What To Do If My Child Gets Essential Oils in Their Eyes? 

    Try not to panic. Wash their hands thoroughly in case they have any more oil on their hands. Stop them rubbing their eyes, as this could irritate the area further. 

    Bathe their eyes with more carrier oil to dilute the essential oil further and rinse it from their eyes. 

    Wipe clean with a tissue, then flush the eye area with clean water for 10-20 minutes,

    If needed, apply a few drops of vegetable oil around the area to soothe the skin.

    Seek medical support if irritation persists. 

    Beware of Using Old Essential Oils for Children

    Before using your oils on or around your children, make sure you know how old your oil is. Oils don’t have shelf lives as such, but they do oxidize over time. As they degrade, they become potential irritants, especially when they are used on children. This is a particular danger for citrus oils which degrade very quickly.

    Don’t be tempted to use them in the bath or to diffuse them, but they can be potentially irritating, particularly for children. Using them as cleaning products can also be problematic since these oxidized constituents can irritate delicate airways. 

    Dispose of old oils mindfully. The best and safest approach is to bin them, or to pour them on the garden. If you do this though, make sure to bury them so as not to irritate any wildlife.

    Be Mindful of Overusing Essential Oils for Children.

    Sensitization is a concern for all users, but even more so with children. It can happen for several reasons, but particularly as a result of overusing oils. Adhere to safety guidelines and follow the “less is more” approach. 

    Good Housekeeping

    Never leave children unattended around your oils, or diffusers. Little people are curious, Curiosity leads to accidents.

    Are There Any Good Authorities On Using Essential Oils With Children?

    Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child"  by Valerie Ann Worwood is a great resource,  filled with hundreds of simple recipes for children of all ages and stages.


    Using essential oils on or around children can be a tricky topic to navigate, however there is no need to fear it. Empower yourself with knowledge, seek out information from reputable and reliable sources, and keep learning about essential oils for children. Trust yourself, but also remember that if you are in any doubt best to leave it out.

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