Parenting

Every parent needs to read this warning about the dangers of essential oils and diffusers for children


Consuming essential oils can cause serious harm (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe.

While pure essential oils might seem like a healthy way to fragrance your home and soothe your mind, child injury prevention organisation Kidsafe NSW has issued a warning about using these products around young children.

On the safety group’s Instagram, Kidsafe NSW explained that ingesting essential oils, can cause ‘serious poisoning’.

They say that less than a teaspoon of oil can cause major harm.

On Instagram the group wrote: ‘An important reminder from Kidsafe NSW that less than a teaspoon of essential oil or vaporiser fluids can cause serious poisoning in a young child.’

Essential oils can be dangerous to children not because of the vapours when used with a diffuser, but due to the risk of a child picking up the bottle and gulping some down.

These products absolutely should not be taken internally. When they are, this can lead to vomiting, seizures, and even death.

The International Federation of Aromatherapists says: ‘Essential oils must be used and applied with caution, careful consideration and in moderation.

Kidsafe NSW has issued a warning about leaving essential oils within reach of children (Picture: Instagram/Kidsafe Australia)

‘Essential oils absolutely must not be taken internally unless prescribed and administered by a primary healthcare practitioner, pharmacist, or herbalist who is also a trained and qualified essential oil practitioner – the IFA does not advocate the internal use of essential oils in any other circumstance, either via oral, rectal or vaginal means.

‘Essential oils should never be swallowed neat because they can cause severe mucous membrane irritation.

‘Although essential oils metabolise and are eliminated or excreted from the body quite quickly, there is increased risk of causing renal (kidney) and hepatic (liver) damage and internal irritation to other accessory organs of the digestive system. Some essential oils are oral toxins.’

It’s vital that if you have essential oils in the home, they are in bottles with childsafe lids and are never left open and within easy reach of young children.

Pet parents need to exercise caution, too. Even essential oils in a diffuser can cause poisoning in cats and dogs.

Essential oils can also poison pets (Picture: Shutterstock / July Prokopiv)

Vet Zoe Costigan, from pet wellbeing specialist firm Itchpet.com, told Metro.co.uk: ‘We need to be cautious when it comes to keeping essential oils in our homes as many oils could be potentially toxic to our pets.

‘Essential oils – as well as being used in room diffusers – are found in many products such as shampoos, air fresheners, insect repellants and may be accidentally ingested, absorbed across the skin or inhaled by animals.

‘Cats are even more sensitive to the effects of essential oils and although they rarely ingest them directly like dogs they may ingest them whilst grooming themselves or their housemates’.

But back to our human children. Australian paediatric doctor Dr Nelu Simonsz echoes Kidsafe’s warning about essential oils, stating back in 2018: ‘Hopefully parents and childcare workers know that locking up cleaning products and medications away from curious little hands can be life-saving but did you also know that an unknown danger is essential oils?

‘Yes the seemingly harmless rosemary oil and eucalyptus oil can be very harmful to children if swallowed.’

She told Femail: ‘Try to buy bottles with a child safe lid where possible.

‘Some kids are too clever for this so make sure all cleaning products, essential oils, medications, sprays and basically anything that could be dangerous if swallowed, are kept in high places or a cupboard that can’t be accessed by kids with childproof locks on them.

‘If you are using these products, make sure either the kids aren’t around or you don’t put the product down with your back to the child (it doesn’t take long for them to pick it up and put it in their mouth).’

If you believe your child has consumed essential oils or is showing signs of poisoning – which can include vomiting, stomach pains, confusion, fainting and drowsiness – it’s vital you call 999 or take them to A&E.



Effects of consuming different essential oils:

  • CLOVE: large ingestions can have hepatotoxicity similar to paracetamol poisoning, renal failure, DIC, inhalational pneumonitis, coma
  • FENNEL: Nausea, vomiting, seizure activity, pulmonary oedema.
  • GERANIUM: Allergic contact chelitis.
  • LAVENDER: CNS depression, ataxia, photosensitiser that promotes hyperpigmentation, contact dermatitis.
  • LEMON MYRTLE: Skin irritation and corrosion.
  • NUTMEG: hallucinations, coma
  • THUJA (essential oil of the wormwood plant of the cedar family): Multiple tonic-clonic seizures.
  • WINTERGREEN (Methyl Salicylate):  nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, vertigo, hyperventilation, seizures.
  • WORMWOOD: Acidosis, acute renal failure, respiratory acidosis, rhabdomyolysis, visual alterations, delirium, restlessness, paranoia, tremor, and seizures. 
  • EUCALYPTUS: Breathing difficulties and depression of the central nervous system

The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

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