For most parents, when our children get sick, we feel a sense of helplessness at not being able to help them. This can place a great deal of stress on ourselves as parents. Lucky, we have access to essential oils. They can be a great addition to your family health toolkit, giving you a sense of support and control during these challenging times.
We can use them during emergencies, when we have no other options on hand, during emotional times and in everyday situations when our children need our support.
Essential oils are extracted from plants, trees and flowers, but just because they are derived from nature, it doesn’t mean they do not need to be used with care. They are potent aromatic substances and require careful administration, especially when it comes to children.
In general aromatherapy, a 2.5% dilution is considered a safe dilution. However, with children, we need to dilute to lower levels. We do this based on age. The following is based on guidelines from The Tisserand Institute.
- 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.
- Another safe option can be the use of hydrosols, which are the waters from the distillation process. They contain microscopic levels of essential oils and can be a safe and effective option.
- For children between 3 to 24 months, a 0.25 to 0.5% dilution is considered the best approach.
- A 1 to 2% dilution for children between 2 and 6 is suggested
- For children between 6 and 15, dilution ranges between 2.5 to 5%.
- If you have any questions or concerns, please consult with your primary healthcare practitioner, or a qualified professional aromatherapist. To find a professional aromatherapist in your area, check www.iaama.org.au or www.australiannaturaltherapistsassociation.com.au
Dilution is only part of the equation.
Which oils we use, and how we use them must also be taken into account. There are some essential oils that require more consideration for children based on the chemical composition. Oils such as Cinnamon Bark and Oregano are what some people call “hot oils” meaning that if you place directly onto the skin, it can cause burning and or irritation. We recommend that you avoid using these oils with children.
Oils for Children
If there was only one essential oil you could use it would be Lavender. Lavender has a sweet, floral, herbal scent and is prized for its many therapeutic properties and uses. It can be useful for supporting sleep, feelings of anxiousness or temper tantrums, as well as for cuts, bruises, and bites. Whilst in the past people have used it without dilution, this is not current best practice, and it is effective at low dilutions.
This bright and fresh smelling essential oil is a great addition for children. If your child is anxious, try this oil. It can also be used if your child is constipated or having digestive issues. We apply it to their tummy and rub in a clockwise direction, making sure its diluted correctly, with our favourite carrier oil.
This gentle oil can soothe irritated skin, calm the temper tantrums, and help young ones with sleep issues. If you notice your kids getting cranky at a certain time each day, try diffusing a drop of this oil to help bring some peace and calm to the noise. If your child has an upset tummy it could be diluted with your favourite carrier oil such as Sweet Almond or jojoba oil, applied to the tummy, and rubbed in a clockwise direction.
This great Australian oil is great oil for respiratory issues especially in children. It has a familiar scent, it is reminiscent of Tea Tree essential oil, but gentler. In some circles it is called “Lavender Tea Tree” which is a great way to convey the aroma, as well as its uses. It is gentle and soothing for the skin, and great for calming and relaxation purposes.
The Eucalyptus and Peppermint Controversy
You will find many pages stating that it is unsafe to use Peppermint and Eucalyptus essential oils with children. The controversy relates to the chemistry of these essential oils, in particular the constituents: 1,8 cineole in Eucalyptus (both radiata and globulus) and the menthol constituent found in Peppermint. When used in high amounts, some children have experienced breathing difficulties.
They can be great for respiratory congestion and infection, when used in the right dilution for the right age.
Tisserand suggests that Peppermint be avoided in children under 3, but in children aged between 3 and 6, it is ok to diffuse, or apply to the skin diluted to 0.5%. Eucalyptus can be diffused for all ages, applied topically for children under 3 diluted up to 0.5%), and for children between 3-6 diluted up to 1%. He believes that these guidelines are “super-safe, if anything a little over-cautious”.
When things go wrong
Accidents can happen. We must always supervise our children when they are in proximity to our essential oils. We mustn’t leave the around where they can be accidentally ingested. Tisserand states that “two-year old kids have been known to unscrew caps on essential oil bottles and drink the contents”. Children used to the sucking motion can easily drink the contents of a bottle even with the plastic drop on it.
If you suspect your child has ingest essential oils, contact your emergency department as soon as possible. The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and the Western Australia Department of Health have some great information on essential oil poisoning. Check out your poison’s information centre, local health department or children’s hospital to see what information they advise on children, essential oils and accidents.
When it comes to your children ensure that you use them with care, know they are potent but also know they are one of the best tools to have in your home first aid kit too. Have a good reference book and enjoy their magic. Visit: www.twenty8.com
References and Resources
Essential Oil Poisoning, Clinical Practice Guidelines https://www.rch.org.au/clinicalguide/guideline_index/Essential_Oil_Poisoning/
Essential oils – Health warning
Kids Inhalation Safety