Aromatherapy for Children

This page looks at aromatherapy for children - how to use essential oils with children safely and effectively, in particular, which EOs are to be avoided and which dilution rate is appropriate for children.

Aromatherapy for Children You may have read on the Internet about some rather irresponsible suggestions to use high dilution rates or even undiluted essential oils on babies and children.

Don't!

Babies and small children have very sensitive and delicate skin and respiratory systems, so we have to use essential oils with extreme care on them.

Aromatherapy for Children Under 5

As a general rule of thumb, DO NOT use essential oils directly on the skin of children under 5. The only exception is for first aid, in which case dilute 5-6 drops of essential oils in 30 ml of a carrier (1% dilution). For example, dilute 5-6 drops of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) in 30 ml of aloe vera gel for cuts, bruises, or sunburns.

Diffusing safe and gentle essential oils around kids under 5 is fine. One example is if a kid under five is fighting a cold, with a stuffed-up nose and fever, you can use a diffuser for short periods of time (20-30 minutes on, at least 30 minutes off, 2-3 times a day) to help fight germs and promote easy breathing.

Aromatherapy for Children Between 5 and 12

How about older children between 5 and 12?

Generally speaking, for topical use of essential oils on healthy kids between five and twelve years old, stick to 1% - use 5 to 6 drops of essential oil per 30 ml of a carrier (e.g. an unscented lotion/cream, massage oil, aloe gel, etc.)

DO NOT be tempted to add a few more drops of essential oils to the lotion just because your kid's skin infection seems bad and you think more oils means higher potency thus faster and better results.

Bear in mind that children's skin is more sensitive than ours, so if you use a higher dilution rate, your kid's skin may become irritated. We want our children to benefit from essential oils' therapeutic properties in a safe way - not to be harm by them!

Young children (between 5-12) can also benefit from aromatic baths, but remember to use only gentle oils (e.g. Lavender, Cedarwood, Roman Chamomile).

Stay away from strong, hot, and stimulating oils (e.g. Peppermint, Oregano, Thyme, Nutmeg, Clove, Cinnamon, Lemongrass, etc.) - actually, this applies to aromatic baths for adults as well.

Since oil and water do not mix, when using essential oils in a bath, try to add the oils (5-6 drops) to 30 ml of whole milk or a carrier oil, and add that to the bath water.

When a child over five is fighting a cold, in addition to diffusing essential oils for ambient inhalation, we can also make an inhaler so s/he can smell the oils more directly. If you want to make an inhaler for your kid, you can use up to 10 drops of essential oils. Alternatively, you can dilute 5-6 drops of essential oils in a carrier oil or cream and rub it on their chest and upper back.

Aromatherapy for Children - Special Precautions

  • Always do a patch test before using any essential oils on a child's skin.
  • Children are curious and they no doubt want to know what's inside all those dark glass bottles that you have! Make sure that you keep all essential oils out of the reach of young children. Don't let them touch the oils or put any oils on their bodies by themselves - they may get the oils into their eyes and may even ingest the oils which of course can cause problems such as burning and toxicity.
  • A word of caution on Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata or Eucalyptus globulus) for children: While Eucalyptus is an effective oil to use to clear and open up the sinuses, there are some safety concerns when using this oil on young children (under 10 years old). It is therefore suggested that Eucalyptus oil (especially E. globulus) be used only on children over 10 years old. For young children with respiratory issues, a good substitute is Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana or Cedrus atlantica).
  • Birch (Betula lenta) or Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) should NOT be used on children in any way due to the possible risk of developing Reye's syndrome, as well as the fact that these two oils contain the chemical component methyl salicylate (same ingredient found in Aspirin).

Reference:
Tisserand, R. & Young, R. (2013). Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. 2nd Edition. Churchill Livingstone.