Can you use essential oils with children? Yes!
The use of essential oils on children is a very controversial topic, and rightly so. Aromatherapy is a powerful healing modality, and essential oils have a very strong effect on children. However, if you use the right essential oils appropriately, your children will be able to enjoy their therapeutic benefits.
The guidelines for using essential oils with children is not as complicated as you would think; in fact, it’s rather straightforward.
But, before we begin, I’d like to remind you of why you’re reading this article in the first place: Your child’s health. As an Aromatherapist and a mother, my children’s health is always my number one priority, NOT the modality that I choose. That is, I don’t use essential oils with children because I want to use essential oils, I use them if and only if doing so will prove beneficial to them in that particular instance.
Guidelines for Using Essential Oils with Children
If, after weighing all of your options, you’ve decided to go ahead and use essential oils, please adhere to these guidelines to ensure that your children get the maximum benefit and the least amount of risk.
I don’t recommend the use of essential oils, in any way, for babies 6 months and under. You can use hydrosols (see below) or carrier/base oils instead – they are gentle enough for young babies, but powerful enough to have an effect.
For babies between 6 months – 1 year, essential oils can be used via indirect inhalation only. You can diffuse 6-8 drops (maximum total) of essential oil in an ultrasonic diffuser, for a maximum of 45 minutes at a time, with a 2-hour break in between. Make sure that the diffuser is away from baby’s face and in a well-ventilated room. I don’t recommend topical application of essential oils to babies under the age of 1, even diluted. It’s not necessary, the risks far outweigh the benefits, and there are so many other effective alternatives.
Important: One of our main concerns with this age group (infants and babies) is the greater potential for system toxicity due to the use of essential oils, and the development of a lifelong sensitization to certain oils.
For children aged 1-5 years, you can diffuse as per the guidelines above, and you can also give them portable aromatherapy inhaler sticks. Topical application is okay, as long as you dilute them to a maximum concentration of 1%. This is about 5-6 drops (total) per 1 oz/30 mL. In a 10 mL roller ball, this is 2 drops. Do not apply essential oils directly to the skin (neat), as their delicate skin can be easily irritated, and we want to avoid the development of sensitization. You may apply 1 drop of essential oil neat if treating a bee sting, bug bite, or a wart.
For children aged 6-12 years, the same guidelines above apply. I would still recommend keeping topical dilutions to a maximum of 1%, although you can increase to 2% if dealing with acute issues. For example, if making a chest rub for a cold or flu, as you would only be using the blend for the duration of the illness.
Finally, keep all essential oils out of reach of children – they can be poisonous if swallowed. On that note, do not allow your children to ingest essential oils internally in any way. There is no “safe” amount, and the majority of injury reports related to toxicity in children are due to internal ingestion.
Hydrosols: The Preferred Alternative
Hydrosols are the aqueous counterparts to essential oils. They are far less concentrated than essential oils, but still have amazing therapeutic qualities. They are also much more affordable, and easier to use.
Hydrosols do not need to be diluted when used topically, for any age range.
Hydrosols may be taken internally, when diluted. A rough guideline would be about 1 teaspoon of hydrosol to a glass of water.
Hydrosols should be the first choice when considering use on children (and pets!). Hydrosols can be applied on babies’ skin to avoid/heal diaper rash, and can be applied on bruises, cuts, scrapes, or swollen areas on the skin (all ages!).
Hydrosols can also be sprayed and inhaled to create a calm atmosphere, and to help children with fear and anxiety.
My favourite hydrosols include:
Helichrysum – A First Aid Kit in a bottle! Great for healing bruises, cuts, and infections
Lavender – Promotes relaxation both emotionally and in the skin as well. Great for cleaning wounds, and can be used as a gentle facial toner as well
Witch Hazel – My favourite, all-natural facial astringent (toner) and makeup remover
Further Reading on Hydrosols:
The Best Way to Use Essential Oils with Children
By far, the most effective – and also the safest – way to use essential oils with children is by having them inhale the oils. This instantly resets their system, and allows them to receive the mental and emotional balancing properties, as well as the respiratory benefits as well.
Creating an essential oil blend following the dilution guidelines above, and applying the blend to their chest, tummy, or to any areas of concern is also a wonderful way for kids to experience the benefits of essential oils in a way that nourishes the skin, and also allows them to inhale the aroma.
Contrary to popular belief, applying essential oils to the bottoms of the feet is the least effective way to use essential oils, for any age group. There are no pores on the bottoms of your feet (unless you grow hair on the soles of your feet…?), and the skin is thickest here, meaning that absorption is slowest. Plus, being the furthest away from your nose, you’re not likely to receive any aromatic effects either. Fortunately, the same people who recommend placing oils on the bottoms of children’s feet are usually also the same people that don’t adhere to any safety guidelines, so ironically, it’s not the worst essential oil myth going around!
Obviously, if you are treating a plantar wart, foot pain, or a specific foot condition, then it certainly makes sense to apply your oil blend to the bottoms of the feet. But if you’re looking for optimal absorption, this is not the route you want; when working with children, inhalation is best, followed by moderate topical application as needed.
I hope you found this helpful, and as always, if you have any questions please feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via Instagram or Facebook @sacredwellness.co.
To your family’s health,