Are Essential Oils Dangerous for Kids?

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Essential Oils

As essential oils continue to grow in popularity, we have to think about how to protect our children from potentially dangerous encounters with these substances. While there are safe uses for these oils, such as in diffusers or for aromatherapy, it’s important to know what is safe and what is not.

3 Things You Might Not Know

  1. Essential oils aren’t actually oils. They are complex mixtures of aromatic compounds extracted from plant material. They have distinctive odors, don’t mix well with water (like true oils), and are extracted from plants by distillation and cold pressing.
  2. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies essential oils as food supplements, not drugs. This classification means the FDA is not allowed to regulate the sale or use of essential oils. It also means producers of essential oils are not allowed to market the compounds as medicine, and they must clearly state that the product is “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
  3. Essential oils have not been subject to rigorous scientific study to prove they work and to determine what dangers they pose, so we don’t have reliable and reproducible evidence on efficacy or safety. Distributors of essential oils are quick to show “studies” demonstrating a compound’s effectiveness, but this data is unlikely to stand up to scientific scrutiny.

A Warning for Parents

Across the country, there has been an increase in kids getting sick after ingesting the oils or putting them on their skin, according to the Louisiana Poison Control Center.

Symptoms of ingestion include a burning, uncomfortable sensation in the mouth and the throat, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. More severe side effects of ingestion can include seizures and liver damage. Skin symptoms include irritation and rash. Some essential oils could cause skin to burn in the sun.

Essential oils typically do not come with child resistant packaging. Therefore they must be kept securely up and out of the reach of children.

If your child gets essential oils on their skin, clean and rinse the area thoroughly with soap and water; then, contact Louisiana Poison Control at (800) 222-1222. If your child ingests any of these oils, contact Louisiana Poison Control immediately.

About Dr. Brett Hutchinson

Brett Hutchinson, MD is a native of Amite, LA. He received his medical degree from the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also completed his pediatric residency in New Orleans with LSU and Children’s Hospital New Orleans. Dr. Hutchinson is Board Certified in pediatrics and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hutchinson at the Pediatric Medical Center, or call (225) 769-2003. The clinic is located at 12525 Perkins Road, Suite C, Baton Rouge, LA 70810.

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