Kids are much more sensitive to essential oils and aromas in general, but when we take care to understand the risks versus the benefits, we see that even young kids can safely benefit from their therapeutic uses.
Where do we start in order to see the big picture?
In the first few weeks, to the first few months of babies’ life, our bundles of joy are working hard to mature in so many ways. The first thing to note is the olfactory bond that begins immediately between baby and mom. This scent recognition it so incredibly important for baby to be soothed, and vise versa (what mom does not love the smell of a new baby), that we should avoid interrupting that by using the strong aromas of essential oils.
There are various systems of a baby’s body that are not mature at birth, those being the Integumentary system (skin), the Central Nervous System (CNS), and the liver. Before we move on to general safety for kids, it is important to be well versed on the information regarding essential oils and babies, you can find that here.
So we know now, that essential oils should generally not be used topically under three months of age, due to permeability of the skin and increased risk for adverse affects. Caution also needs to be used under two years of age when applying essential oils topically, but this is not to say that you can’t do it.
The variety of essential oils that we can use under two via inhalation/diffusion is longer. In general, look to the KidSafe® line for guidelines, however we at Plant Therapy ask you to give hydrosols a try for kids under two years of age, you can read more about hydrosols and their uses here.
*We at Plant Therapy follow the recommended guidelines suggested by Robert Tisserand, and do not state that essential oils should be avoided in there entirety under the age of two.
Before covering basic safety tips for diffusion, lets cover a concept called “mediating a kids immunity”. Our ancestors had it right when they said it is important to let your kids play in the dirt, allow them to come into contact with germs, understanding that when they get sick, it is helping them to build a healthy immune system. As a parent, it can be challenging to let your kids get dirty in this way, however using essential oils daily as a preventative measure to avoid getting sick is not always best practice.
First and foremost, I make sure my kids take in proper nutrition, get plenty of rest, support gut health, and make sure to always make time for laughter and fun. Essential oils come into play as a part of a wellness plan; they are a compliment to every other aspect of what we do for ourselves to remain healthy and happy; to maintain homeostasis.
Diffusion for kids
While diffusion is a great option for kids over topical application, we must consider things like olfactory habituation, and then move to how to diffuse essential oils safely. What does olfactory habituation mean?
Have you ever walked into a room and smelled something very specific? Assuming that it was not a strong enough scent to cause a headache or nausea, did you think about it again after a few minutes and say to yourself, ”Interesting, I do not smell it anymore”. This is called habituation (make or become use to or accustomed to something). This can also be termed temporary sensory fatigue or olfactory adaption.
To keep your nervous system from depleting itself with this barrage of continuous stimuli, the receptors experience temporary sensory fatigue, or olfactory adaptation. Odor receptors stop sending messages to the brain in regards to the continuous stimuli after a few minutes. That’s why your nose adjusts to a stranger wearing too much perfume, or the smell of smoke on someone’s clothing.
When looking at this phenomenon in regards to the inhalation of essential oils, once habituation is apparent, you are no longer obtaining the benefits of inhalation, but rather risking undue stress on the nervous system.
So, in order to avoid unnecessary stress, practicing safe diffusion is key. I typically recommend 30 minutes diffusion for an older child, but for a toddler or baby, 15-20 minutes is typically plenty of time to obtain their benefits.
Make sure when diffusing for kids that you are in a well-ventilated room, and be sure to clean the diffuser thoroughly in between uses to avoid diffusing possible oxidized oil into the room.
Topical use of essential oils
Formulated by Robert Tisserand for kids aged two to ten, Plant Therapy’s KidSafe® line features a variety of synergies and single oils targeted toward specific issues and ailments common in this age range.
All are available as 100% pure, undiluted essential oils as well as pre-diluted roll-ons for ease of use. There are 23 pre-blended synergies included in the line, but if a single oil is KidSafe®, you will know it by our specially designed KidSafe® label.
Example of the KidSafe® label.
If you are purchasing single KidSafe® oils, or undiluted KidSafe® synergies, knowing how to properly dilute your oils per not only the oils in question but also age is important. When you dilute properly, you greatly reduce the risk of skin irritation.
One thing that we have already done for you is indicated which ones are safe for topical use. In the creation of the synergies, many oils were avoided altogether in order for Plant Therapy to feel comfortable to recommend them to parents, as safety is very important to us. Let’s briefly take a look at the recommended dilution per age. Spot treatments can also vary in comparison to whole body type applications.
Other helpful usage tips
*On average, if you have a blend in a rollerball, salve, chest balm, or lotion, application every three to four hours should be sufficient, or four times a day.
*Aromatherapy inhalers carry less risk than topical application. You can utilize KidSafe® essential oils in an inhaler on more of an as needed basis.
*If using a drop of essential oil in a steam bowl for supporting respiratory health for example, this can safely be performed every two to three hours.
We at Plant Therapy strive to provide you with quality safety and usage information, as it is important for the safe use of these healing catalysts. When equipped with trusted information, you can work to make informed decisions for your kids.
Leslie Moldenauer, CHNC, HHP, Certified Aromatherapist, has been studying natural living and holistic wellness for over 10 years. Leslie is a trusted resource that covers essential oil safety and encompasses all that natural living has to offer. She is passionate about providing education and tools to help others make decisions regarding safety above all things when utilizing aromatherapy in the home.