Using Essential Oils Safely on Children and Infants
As parents, we are usually given concise instructions on what is safe and what can pose a danger to our children. We fear car accidents, SIDS, prescription medication overdoses and side effects – but we think we can breathe easy when it comes to anything labeled as “homeopathic” or “natural”. While homeopathic remedies are generally safe for our children and have a less of a risk than pharmaceuticals, essential oils sometimes fall under a category of their own.
An essential oil is basically a highly concentrated essence from plants – in a very potent form. Dr. Erika Krumbeck, a naturopathic physician, states “…one drop of essential oil is equivalent to 15-40 cups of medicinal tea, or up to 10 teaspoons of tincture” . I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not drinking that much tea, or taking that much of a tincture at once – let alone giving those amounts to my child. That’s pretty dang strong.
Another problem faced is the fact that it is actually pretty difficult to conduct studies on essential oils. Each bottle of essential oil is different. You may have two bottles of tea tree oil in your drawer, from the same company, but they’re not the same. Since the chemistry of plants vary, so does the chemistry of essential oils .
Not to mention, it’s tough to get funding to study essential oils. The University of Minnesota states, “This is because research review boards tend to approve research studies that follow the more usually scientific path. Many conventional drug studies are funded by the pharmaceutical industry. There is little motivation for these companies to find research on natural plant substances because they cannot easily be patented, limiting the potential for profit”  . Unfortunately, this rings true for the vast majority of homeopathic or natural remedies.
Obviously because of the difficulties faced when trying to conduct studies on essential oils, we get a lot of different information thrown at us as users of these products. One company tells you they are safe to ingest, while many professionals express the danger of ingestion. A website may tell you it’s okay to put clove essential oil on your 5 month-old baby’s gums for teething, while many of us are screaming that it’s dangerous.
So – what is the truth? Where are the facts? How can we safely use essential oils on our children?
I have scoured the internet for studies, research, testimonials, and reputable resources on essential oils and child safety. I’ve compiled what I could find and I’m sharing that with you.
Side Effect Risks of Essential Oils in Children
It’s assumed too often that because essential oils are natural and derived from plants that they don’t carry a hefty risk, or any risk at all. But the truth is, if not used properly, essential oils can carry a pretty large risk – especially on children.
Side effects of improper use include skin irritation and irritation of the respiratory system (in cases in which concentrated essential oils are inhaled). Another side effect to watch out for is an allergic reaction.
Dr. Krumbeck states that, if ingested, essential oils can be neurotoxic to children and may cause seizures. 
One study reported that the use of lavender and tea tree oil together topically may have caused breast enlargement in three boys. The report states that researchers are not sure if it’s either oil individually that specifically may cause this, both oils used together, or some other environmental cause outside of what was studied. What researchers have found is that lavender and tea tree oils can mimic estrogen. 
Another important side effect to mention is that essential oils can increase the risk of a sunburn – this is one reason why it is important to dilute properly (which will be discussed in length later in the post) .
Should children and infants ingest essential oils?
In short, essential oils should never be ingested or used internally on children. In fact, most professionals and credible resources state that adults should stay away from these methods as well. The vast amount of cases in which there have been severe side effects are due to the internal use of essential oils or the failure to dilute them. I realize that there are some companies out there that state their product is safe to ingest. However, without the proper studies and based on the fact that most professionals advise against it, I would take caution in doing so no matter what company your essential oils are from.  
Is diffusing essential oils safe around children and infants?
The oils to avoid (listed below) rule still applies if you wish to diffuse essential oils around your children. Allergic reactions may still occur, so that is something to keep in mind. Generally, this is a safe method as long as the oils are on the “safe” list and are not too concentrated. 
How to Properly Dilute Essential Oils for Children:
As stated previously, essential oils are very concentrated and very potent. Therefore, it is important to always dilute essential oils when using them on children. It is widely recommended that a 1% dilution is used on children ages 6 and up – or 3 drops of essential oil per 1Tbsp of a carrier oil. For children between ages 6 months and 6 years, a 0.25% dilution is recommended – or 1 drop per 4 teaspoons . The most common carrier oils include olive oil, sweet almond oil, hemp oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil (you can find out more on carrier oils here.) I have included below a handy dilution chart I created for reference – please feel free to save, share, or print.
Essential Oils That are Never Safe for Children
For quick reference, learningabouteos.com created this image .
But it is important to read the FULL LIST of essential oils not to be used with children here.
List of Safe Essential Oils for Children:
For ages 0-6 months:
Valerie Ann Worwood, an aroma therapist, herbalist and author of “The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy“, notes that chamomile and lavender are safe to use on newborns and above ages  .
For ages 6 months and older:
Add calendula, grapefruit, mandarin, and tea tree oil to the acceptable list of essential oils at this age  .
For children 2 years and older:
These essential oils are okay to use on children that are 2 years and older. ( this link contains a completed list)
It may seem a little overwhelming or confusing to use essential oils on children, but I hope I’ve made some things a little clearer and was able to pass along information that is valuable to you. All of my references are listed at the end of this blog post.
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Read my last post, on lemon essential oil, here.
Please share this essential oil safety information with all of your friends who use or are interested in using essential oils!
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