Are Essential Oils Safe For Babies?

Taking a look at this popular trend.

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essential oils. Ruth Jenkinson/Dorling Kindersley/Getty

It seems like everywhere you look these days, someone is talking about essential oils. I have friends who claim that essential oils have cured allergies, made their migraine headaches disappear, and have flipped their breech babies. 

And although I am not one to jump on any fad bandwagon, I have to admit I was curious about their use and wondered--are essential oils safe for babies?

What are essential oils?

According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, essential oils are derivatives from any physical substance in nature, such as plants or flowers, that are extracted in different ways then separated from water, so just the liquid portion remains.

They are very, very concentrated and potent and are used for different medicinal purposes. 

For babies, the big oils are supposedly peppermint and lavender. Lavender is supposed to induce calming properties and relaxation, to help babies sleep for instance, while many users swear by diluted peppermint oil to reduce a fever. However, the American Essential Oil Trade Association cautions that oils containing menthol or cineole, such as peppermint or eucalyptus oil, can trigger children to stop breathing, so be sure to speak with your doctor before using any essential oils on babies. 

Fast facts you should know:

  • Oils are not recommended to drink: The American Essential Oil Trade Association (AEOTA) recommends that essential oils only be used topically or through diffusion. They state explicitly on their website that they do NOT recommend the internal use (either through the mouth, vagina, or rectally) of essential oils. If you are interested in exploring oral oil use, the AEOTA strongly advises you to seek the advice of a trained aromatherapist, as some oils can be very poisonous. 
  • Never use oils undiluted in kids: The AEOTA also states that parents should never apply undiluted essential oils to any child under the age of three. If you use any oil on a baby or child, it must be heavily diluted with another "carrier" oil, such as grape seed or coconut oil. Many times, even one drop of essential oil is enough, but be sure to talk to your doctor before using any essential oils on babies or children. 
  • Babies are especially susceptible. Essential oils can be especially dangerous in babies 0-3 months old because their skin absorbs more of the oil and their systems are not equipped to handle any adverse reactions. 
  • Know that oils can be poisonous: The National Poison Center lists several cases of children harmed from essential oils and cautions parents against certain oils, such as wintergreen, nutmeg, eucalyptus, sage, and camphor. 
  • Essential oils are not regulated. What this means is that unlike medication sold in stores, essential oils are not monitored by a governmental agency, so you are putting your trust in the company selling the oil that what they say is in the bottle is actually in the bottle. 
  • Get advice from trained professionals. Usually, oil parties or individual selling oils in a team approach aren't licensed or trained, so take any advice with caution. 

The bottom line is that essential oils are very serious products and can be extremely harmful, especially to babies, so don't use an essential oil before speaking to your doctor about how to safely use them with your baby.

 

Sources:

Essential Oil Safety Guidelines for Consumers. American Essential Oil Trade Association. Accessed online: http://aeota.org/safety/consumer-safety/. 

Essential Oils: Poisonous When Misused. National Poison Center. Accessed online: http://www.poison.org/poisonpost/thirdedition2014/essentialoils.htm. 

NAHA Safety Statements. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. Accessed online: http://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/naha-safety-statements/. 

 

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