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University of South Florida

Essential Oils for Children: Friend or Foe?

Parents are always looking for the next best thing in raising children, including natural, organic products and complimentary alternative medicine (CAM). One example of these methods is essential oils, with many parents extolling the benefits of this holistic form of treatment for ailments ranging from boosting their child’s immune system to helping with their baby’s sleeping issues.

As essential oils continue to grow in popularity, it is important to know there is little research to prove their effectiveness and safety.

“While essential oils have been used for centuries for improving ailments, dating back to Hippocrates (460 BC- 47BC), who is considered to be the father of modern medicine, there have been limited studies to prove their effectiveness or safety,” said Dr. Meredith Plant of USF Health Pediatrics.

Essential oils are used in various forms such as:

Aromatherapy/diffusion –diluting drops of oil into water-based vaporizers
Massage –diluted with a carrier oil
Bath time- diluted with carrier oil
Ingested – in capsule form or diluted with oil in water

Proceed with Caution

“Before introducing any essential oils into your child’s health regimen, please consult your pediatrician first, as some oils can have dangerous side effects, such as bronchospasms in babies,” Dr. Plant said.

If you are interested in essential oils or would like to incorporate them into your child’s health care routine, consult your doctor first and use with caution, considering the following:

• Essential oils can interfere with your child’s medications and create issues for people with existing health conditions.
• Some oils are not appropriate for use with children as they contain certain chemicals in high doses. Essential oils should be treated as medications and used with caution.
• Avoid direct contact with skin. Oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil such as vegetable or canola oil to avoid burning the child’s skin.
• Keep oils stored in safe, locked away place. Oils tend to smell good, and are enticing to children. They are often poisonous, especially when ingested.
• Be on the lookout for reactions to oils that can include rashes, coughing, vomiting, headaches, sleepiness, and seizures. If your child experiences any these side effects, stop using the oils and call your doctor right away.
• Diffuse cautiously. Use sparingly in humidifiers or diffusers, always using in a large, well-ventilated space, and never diffuse around infants or any children with respiratory issues.


Written by Ercilia Colón




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