“Can you diffuse essential oils around small children or babies? If so, which ones?”
Yes, but with caution. While children’s greater sensitivity to scents makes them more receptive to the essential oils used in aromatherapy, it also makes them more vulnerable to any unpleasant effects such oils can cause.
Similarly, a child’s immune system isn’t fully developed, and that also increases their susceptibility to adverse effects. Children with asthma also often react badly to diffusers, so parents should not use diffusers if their child has asthma or a family history of asthma.
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, you should not use essential oils at all on or around babies under three months old.
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Essential oils can help older babies by soothing anxiety, promoting sleep, and even relieving colic.
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Similarly, the Herbal Academy warns parents to consider a child’s age when choosing an essential oil. Some essential oils that can benefit adults and older children can be dangerous to small children.
For example, essential oils that contain a lot of menthol or 1,8-cineole, like peppermint and eucalyptus, can slow the respiration of babies and small children. While eucalyptus is a good treatment for respiratory congestion, it should not be used around children under ten.
Similarly, peppermint should not be diffused around children under six. Essential oils can also cause allergic reactions in people. If a child shows signs of such a reaction, discontinue use of the essential oil.
Medical News Today reminds parents to make sure that their child is in a well-ventilated room and to follow the instructions that come with the diffuser.
There is a wide range of diffusers available, and some have lights that can help a child or baby sleep.
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Lavender, which is extracted from the flowering plant Lavandula augustifolia, can calm a child and encourage sleep. Diffuse lavender in the child’s bedroom for 15 minutes before they go to sleep.
In 2013, the “International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology” reported a study conducted at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran in which researchers studied the effects of lavender oil on school-age children who had undergone tonsillectomies.
The scientists found that the children who inhaled lavender oil needed fewer painkillers that the children who did not. On the other hand, lavender oil had little effect on the intensity of the children’s pain or their ability to sleep through the night.
The science journal “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” described a study conducted in 2013 in which researchers administered aromatherapy to patients recovering from heart surgery.
The scientists used a mixture of chamomile oil, lavender oil, and neroli oil and found that the patients who underwent aromatherapy slept better and were less anxious than the ones who did not.
There are several different types of chamomile oil, however, and German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and blue tansy (Tanacetum annuum) are the ones most often recommended for children.
Cypress oil can both clear congestion and improve mood. The water should be hot enough to produce steam, and inhaling the steam will help relieve the congestion caused by respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis.
An older child who doesn’t have a diffuser can add three to five drops of cypress oil to a pan of hot water, place a towel over their head, and breathe in the steam. The water should not be boiling.
Neroli oil is extracted from the flowers of the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium). It has a spicy and sweet smell and is thus often used an ingredient in perfumes, candles, and massage oils.
In aromatherapy, neroli oil is often used to treat insomnia, colds, anxiety, and indigestion. It is also believed to improve mood and reduce stress.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is made from the leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). It is often used in shampoos, mouthwashes, and lotions.
It is commonly used in aromatherapy because it can fight infection and strengthen the immune system. It is effective against bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and it can be used to treat flu and colds.
Marjoram oil comes from the flowers and leaves from the herb called marjoram (Origanum majorana). When used in vapor therapy, it can relieve sinusitis or asthma.
One form of vapor therapy calls for adding two or three drops of marjoram oil to a bowl of hot water and inhaling the steam to relieve laryngitis or an upper respiratory condition.
Marjoram can also calm hyperactive children, relieve stress or depression, and improve sleep.
Cedarwood oil is extracted from the wood of the Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica). It is believed to have been one of the first essential oils ever extracted and dates back to the time of the ancient Egyptians.
It has decongestant and expectorant properties, and it can thus treat allergies and upper respiratory infections. It has a soothing quality and can stimulate the respiratory system.
Mandarin oil is made from the rind of a small orange known by the scientific name Citrus reticulata that is an ancestor of many cultivated citrus species.
It encourages sleep and is often used as an alternative to lavender because some babies find the aroma of lavender irritating.
Unlike many citrus oils, mandarin isn’t phototoxic. It can, therefore, be safely applied to the skin. On the other hand, it may not be safe to use around children with epilepsy, cancer, or liver problems.
Essential Oil Blends & Recipes You Can Make
Mix the oils and the water. Put the mixture into the diffuser.
Mix the oils together and put them in a diffuser. The mixture can be used to either fight off a cold or flu or to help prevent one.
Mix the oils in a diffuser. The mixture can treat congestion caused by an allergy or upper respiratory infection.
Mix the oils in a diffuser.
How to Use Essential Oils for Babies
Make sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician before using essential oils. This is particularly true if the child has a condition like epilepsy or asthma and/or is taking a medication, for some essential oils can interact with certain medications in ways that are not beneficial to the child’s health.
They also recommend that parents use water-based diffusers rather than the candles that some adults like. Parents should also test small amounts of new oils in a vaporizer for around 60 minutes and watch for signs of irritation.
There are four main types of diffusers: nebulizing diffusers, ultrasonic diffusers, heat diffusers, and evaporative diffusers. Ultrasonic diffusers are water-based and thus use a mixture of water and essential oil.
They can double as a humidifier which makes them handy to have around in winter. Unfortunately, the various citrus oils can damage the ultrasonic mechanisms.
Nebulizing diffusers also work well for aromatherapy treatments, for they have no plastic parts and don’t need heat or water. Like ultrasonic diffusers, they produce a mist. Some of them come with timers.
Diffusion is the safest way to introduce new essential oils to children. They also quote Robert Tisserand’s book, “Essential Oil Safety,” which describes over 400 essential oils and the safest ways to use them.
Tisserand has warned against prolonged aromatherapy and advises that adults should limit themselves to diffusion sessions no more than an hour.
Children, because of their greater sensitivity, should not be exposed to essential oils for more than 20 to 40 minutes at a time. Parents should then wait for at least an hour before administering the next aromatherapy session.
Parents should also carefully check the ingredients to make certain they are using pure and unadulterated essential oils. Some essential oils are mixed with alcohol and/or artificial fragrances, and both of those can cause irritation.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recommends checking the label for five important pieces of information: the plant’s common name, its scientific name, country of origin, the part of the plant used to make the oil, and the method of extraction.
Oils lacking such information could be adulterated and/or ineffective.
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Final Thoughts About Essential Oils for Babies and Children
People have used essential oils for generations, but some essential oils are safe only for adults or older children. You will thus have to choose your essential oils carefully if you plan to use them on a child or baby.
Only a handful of essential oils can be safely used on infants, and they include lavender oil, mandarin oil, and chamomile oil.
If you wish to use aromatherapy, get your doctor’s advice first. Essential oils are often powerful, so you will only need a few drops in your treatments. Start with a low dose and work up, if necessary.
Have you ever used aromatherapy to treat your children? How effective did you find it to be?