One of the most common questions I receive is about using essential oils on babies and kids. Moms ask me all the time: Can I use oils on my kids? How do I use oils on my kids? Which ones should I not use? I heard I shouldn’t use this oil. Is that true? Can I use essential oils on babies? All. the. time.
The answer is yes. And I’m going to show you how.
Dosage – 1 to 2 drops is plenty
The biggest concern with children and babies is that their bodies are tiny and it doesn’t require much of anything to have a reaction. Their organs and immune systems are still developing and therefore their ability to filter and process is not as developed. The concern then is for toxicity: that a baby or child would ingest too much of something and would cause damage to the organs.
When it comes to essential oils, the risk for children is in dosage. Use small amounts for topical application of essential oils on babies and children. More is not more. One to two drops at a time is more than enough. I like to use this analogy: you would never give your child a whole bottle of acetaminophen, or massive amounts of it, so don’t do it with essential oils.
The exception to this rule is in the diffuser. Anywhere from 5 to 10 drops of an essential oil is acceptable in a diffuser. There are no real hard rules on this however.
2. Dilution – Dilute essential oils for babies & children
Diluting essential oils slows the absorption rate of essential oils into the body and lowers the risk of skin sensitization. Because babies and children have smaller bodies and less developed processes, we want to slow down that absorption. Because their skin is sensitive, we also want to minimize the risk of skin irritation and sensitization.
Here’s a general dilution guideline:
0-1 years: Dilute 8 drops carrier oil to 1 drop essential oil. If no reaction occurs, slowly move to 7 drops carrier oil to 1 drop essential oil.
2-6 years: Dilute 3 drops carrier oil to 1 drop essential oil.
7-11 years: Dilute 1 drop carrier oil to 1 drop essential oil
12+ years: Use full label concentration
Exceptions to the rule: essential oils high in phenols will need more dilution: oregano, thyme, rosemary, clove, cinnamon and others. Some of these are extremely hot or burning to the skin and I would recommend against topical use on babies.
If you’ve applied an essential oil without enough carrier oil and irritation arises, immediately add more carrier oil to the skin to further dilute the essential oil. If a rash occurs, stop using the essential oil and give the body a break.
Your child’s skin type may determine how you use essential oils as they get older. I personally have 2 pre-teen children who can handle neat oils (essential oils straight on the skin) and 1 who absolutely cannot.
3. Method of Use
a. Diffusion is a fantastic way to use essential oils around babies and children. Add a diffuser with lavender essential oil to the nursery or bedroom to support sleep and relaxation.
You can diffuse by placing a drop of oil on the crib sheets, a blanket, pajamas etc.
b. Topical application is the other way to use essential oils on babies. Apply the essential oil with appropriate dilution rate to the affected area.
Exceptions to this: do not use eucalyptus or mint oils on or near the face of a child 6 and under. Do not drip oils in eyes, ears. Use extreme caution around genitals and mucous membranes. You will only make that mistake once!
Some people say to use essential oils on the feet of babies and children. The reason for this is because the skin on the foot is very thick, which will naturally slow down the absorption rate. There’s nothing wrong with that suggestion, but I find more success with using the essential oils on the area needed, while paying attention to the precautions.
c. It’s unwise to allow children to ingest raw essential oil (essential oil in a capsule). High quality essential oils are safe to ingest, but it’s not wise to give to raw essential oil to children. Topical use generally will solve the issue.
I personally allow my children to take a drop or 2 of raw (or diluted) essential oil when they hit the pre-teen age. However, they do consume essential oils in multivitamins, toothpaste & mouthwash, and food. This is because it’s more easily digested.
When you use an herb, you’re also ingesting essential oil. An essential oil is a much more potent part of the plant, but it is present in the herb itself. Many essential oil experts like Valerie Ann Worwood and Kurt Schnaubelt advocate for ingesting and cooking with essential oils. Additionally, essential oils are already commonly found in candies, gum, toothpaste & mouthwash, and flavoured drinks. It’s what the food industry uses as flavouring.
4. Use gentle essential oils
There are so many essential oils out there that some of the more controversial oils can easily be avoided.
Gentle Oils For Babies & Children
Tea tree Orange
Ylang Ylang Blue Tansy
Cypress and so many more!
Essential Oils to Avoid or Use With Caution
Idaho Tansy Fennel
Oils high in phenols
5. Other precautions
a. Avoid sunlight for 12 hours after applying citrus essential oils to the skin. These oils increase the risk of sunburn. I find it best to use citrus essential oils at night during the summer months.
b. The most at risk population for essential oil use is premature babies because their lungs and skin are not fully developed. Generally, I recommend against topical application on preemie babies. Diffusion is a great alternative, but stick to gentle oils in the diffuser. There have been studies done on diffusing lavender in NICUs and the results are calmer babies and parents. A drop on the crib sheet or a blanket may also be a great option.
Want to learn more about what essential oils to use for kids? Read about essential oils for night time.