Using Essential Oils on Children
There are many benefits to using Aromatherapy for the whole family; they are natural, they will make your home smell amazing and they can provide therapeutic benefits for everyone.
Using aromatherapy safely is always important, but especially when we are using them on or around children. In this blog post, I discuss how to use aromatherapy safely for children ten years and under. I also discuss safe essential oils to use for the correct age group and the best methods of application.
Before I continue I’d like to mention that advice will differ from aromatherapist to aromatherapist. Essential oils are potent and highly concentrated, therefore I personally always air on the side of caution, especially when using them during pregnancy and on children.
There is a lot of misleading information online. It is absolutely essential that aromatherapy is used safely on and around children. I highly recommend seeking advice from a Certified Aromatherapist* before using aromatherapy while pregnant or around infants and children. This will help parents make well-educated decisions for the wellness of their children. It is also important to choose the safest variety of essential oils as some are made up of stronger constituents that may be harmful to children compared to other relatively milder ones.
*Certified Aromatherapy - someone who has undergone at least 200 hours of aromatherapy training at an accredited organization. They will have a certificate for their qualification and will likely be part of a member of a professional association. Aromatherapy for Each Age Group: 1 - 6 months - Use nothing 6 - 36 months - Hydrosol 3 - 6 years - essential oil diluted at 0.5%. Never use undiluted 6 - 10 years - 1% dilution, again never use undiluted 10 years plus - 1 - 2% dilution. You could go up to 3% for acute issues
Always start off low (usage and dilution), wait to see how the child responds, then gradually work your way up. Safety Children of any age respond very quickly to natural healing remedies. Their skin is thinner and more sensitive than adults so anything applied topically to their skin will absorb very quickly. Their immune function, respiratory function, central nervous system, and chemosensory systems are still developing at this stage, thus essential oils could potentially cause more harm than good. If used improperly, potential side effects include seizures, mucous membrane irritation, skin sensitivities, and other consequences. With this in mind, my biggest tip when using aromatherapy on children is less is more.
Always try to use a hydrosol first and if that doesn't seem effective then move onto an essential oil (at the appropriate age). Use one essential oil at a time as you do not know if the child is allergic and what they can tolerate.
When diffusing essential oils it is important to make sure the area is well ventilated with fresh air.
Diffuse for no more than 15-20 mins at a time with 60 mins break in between. Do not leave a diffuser on in a child’s room for long periods/overnight. Inhalation is very powerful and should not be overused.
Do not be tempted to use a higher dilution for acute issues. Stick to the safe dilution rates for each specific age range.
Ingestion is never recommended. Make sure all hydrosols and essential oils are out of reach of little hands.
What to Use
Hydrosol vs Essential Oil Essential oil is a potent aromatic liquid that has been extracted from a plant, tree, leaf, or bark via steam distillation or cold pressing. They are mixtures of many constituents, around 100 - 600, which have medicinal benefits. These constituents work together to interact with the body's hormones, enzymes, and systems.
Hydrosols, also called floral waters, are the byproduct of the essential oil distillation. They contain a very small amount of essential oil - about 0.05-0.2ml of dissolved essential oil which makes them gentle enough to use on children and sensitive skin. Hydrosols are also a great option for scratches, scrapes, minor burns, insect bites and rashes.
I would recommend using Hydrosols on children 3 years old and under. Hydrosols
Roman Chamomile - this is a very gentle flower. Super for skin conditions such as eczema and diaper rash. Also great for wound care (as long as the skin is not broken). It is very calming so great to use as a night time pillow spray.
Calendula - again a very gentle flower. Excellent for treating cuts and abrasions (as long as the skin is not broken), bruises, skin rashes. It is very soothing and cooling.
Lavender - a gentle and classic hydrosol and can be used to treat pretty much any issue. A great hydrosol to use to help calm children, night terrors, pre-exam anxiety, burns and heat rash.
Please be mindful of where you are sourcing hydrosols. They need to be fresh, preservative free and ideally organic.
Tip: Keep hydrosols in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. Essential Oils
Essential oils can be used on children over 12 months old at a low dilution of 0.25 - 0.5% for acute issues, but my advice would be to stick to using Hydrosols for children 3 years and under.
Sweet Orange - all children love the scent of orange. It is an uplifting, happy oil. Lavender - great for sleep, stress and anxiety. It is also great to use on burns and skin abrasions.
Roman Chamomile - a wonderful gentle oil to use for tummy issues and calming - especially during tantrums.
Frankincense - a great oil for calming, anxiety, panic, overstimulated and trouble falling asleep.
Lemon - a vibrant and uplifting oil. Lemon is considered the motivator of essential oils.
Phototoxic* oil - do not use it if a child's skin is exposed to sunlight.
Lime - a zesty energizing oil.
Phototoxic* oil - do not use it if a child's skin is exposed to sunlight. Mandarin - The most gentle oil to use on children. Mandarin is good for just about anything when it comes to kids.
Phototoxic* oil - do not use it if a child's skin is exposed to sunlight. Neroli - an exquisite calming oil. Great to use for sleep, nervousness, irritability, anxiety and overstimulation.
Copaiba Balsam - a great oil to use to help calm a busy mind, tummy aches and first signs of a cough or colds.
Myrrh - a gentle, calming and grounding oil. Excellent for wound healing, though do not use on open cuts or abrasions.
*Phototoxic - also known as photosensitivity. It is a light-induced reaction to a substance that is photoactive. There are some essential oils which contain photoactive constituents and will react to the sun UV rays. This could cause the skin to become more sensitive to the sun and increase risk sunburn. All citrus oils apart from Sweet Orange are photoactive. How Much to Use Start off low (usage and dilution) and wait to see how the child responds. They may well respond differently from one hydrosol or essential oil to another.
Hydrosol They usually come in spray bottles. 1-2 spritz to the area will be enough to use. For topical use you do not need to dilute hydrosols.
Essential Oils Use this chart as a guide for diluting essential oils for children.
EO= Essential Oil
Methods of Use
Hydrosol: 6 months + 1-2 spritz on skin and on pillow Body Oil or Lotion: 3 years + Use the dilution I mentioned above
Diffusion: 3 years + 3 drops for 100ml water. Diffuse for no longer than 15-20 mins with 30 mins breaks in between. Make sure the room is well ventilated.
Pillow Spray: 12 months + 1-2 spritz of Hydrosol on pillow
Aromatherapy Inhaler 4 - 6 years old 3 drops per cotton wick. Use no more than 1 essential oil. 7 - 9 years old 5 drops per cotton wick. Use no more than 2 essential oils. 10 - 13 years old 5 drops per cotton wick. Use no more than 3 essential oils. Final Thoughts Allow this blog post to be your guide when using plant remedies for children. Print it and keep it close by so you can reference it easily. I work closely with many professionals including product makers, doulas, and holistic practitioners advising on correct usage and method of application. This enables them to feel confident using aromatherapy safely with their clients and customers. If you would like to discuss aromatherapy for children in more detail or if you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org Questions and Answers Q. Why can’t I use Peppermint on my 2-year-old? Essential oils are made up of chemical compounds. Although these compounds are naturally occurring, some are not safe for children. Peppermint contains around 10-48% of the chemical content called Menthol which isn’t recommended for children under 3 years old. Over 3 years of age it is recommended to keep the dilution to 0.25-0.5%. Q. Can my child ingest essential oils? Essential oils should never be ingested. They are potent and highly concentrated aromatics. Ingesting essential oils can result in burning the esophagus tube and the lining of the stomach, vomiting, toxic shock, unconsciousness, and more. Oils work really well when used in the correct way, there is no need to ingest. Q. Can I use Eucalyptus as a chest rub? Eucalyptus makes a great chest rub. I would recommend using it (diluted with a carrier oil) on children aged 3 years and up at a 0.5% dilution rate for respiratory issues such as cough, chesty cold, and flu. Please bear in mind that essential oils should not replace conventional medicine. Q. Will Lavender help my child sleep? Lavender will help to calm and relax your child before bed. I would recommend having a lavender pillow sprays as part of your bedtime routine. Q. I’ve heard essential oils aren’t safe for kids so should I use synthetic products until they are older? Essential oils are safe to use on children when applied in the correct way and for the correct age. Naturally derived scents are far better to use (for everyone, not just children!) than synthetic. Synthetic fragrance is essentially ‘man-made’ in a laboratory to smell like a natural fragrance. Their chemical continents are not the same as natural scents, they are mostly made from petroleum byproducts such as benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and toluene which are all known toxic chemicals, and some are even known carcinogenic. The chemical makeup of essential oil is made up entirely of organic chemical compounds found in Mother Nature. The two main classes of chemical compounds isolated in essentials oils are Terpenes and Oxygenated compounds, all of which are safe, natural, and non-toxic when used correctly. The short answer to this is no, do not use synthetic fragrance on your child (or your family). They are not good for our health or the environment. Use the information above for methods, dilution rates, and child-safe products to use.
Amy is a Certified Aromatherapy Health Practitioner and the Founder and remedy maker behind Luna Rose Remedies. Amy's love for plants and aromatherapy began many years ago when she decided to experiment in alternative forms of healing to help with her mental and physical health. She started blending her own remedies, making essential oil candles and in 2016 after a year of training, she became a Certified Aromatherapy Health Practitioner.
When Amy isn't in her workshop making aromatherapy remedies, she can be found in the mountains soaking up the scenery with her daughter and husband. Social Media Instagram: www.instagram.com/lunaroseremedies Facebook: www.facebook.com/lunaroseremedies Email: email@example.com