Essential oils are harder and harder to escape. We use them on our skin, ingest them or spray them in the air because they are touted for health and healing properties, like boosting sex drive and lowering stress and anxiety. Even your mom friends probably tried to sell you some recently. But the problem? Using essential oils incorrectly or excessively can be seriously dangerous for children.
The Tennessee Poison Center reported that the number of toxic exposures to essential oils doubled between 2011 to 2015. Four out of every five cases involved children.
"The rule of thumb in toxicology is 'the dose makes the poison,' so all essential oils are potentially harmful," Dr. Justin Loden, a certified specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Tennessee Poison Center, told HealthDay.
For example, when kids try to swallow the oil but choke from its taste, a little of it goes into the lungs and can cause pneumonia. Loden says it only takes half a teaspoon for this to happen. Or because their skin is thinner, excessive amounts of oil applied to children's skin can easily reach alarming levels and even penetrate the protective barrier covering the brain.
Symptoms of essential oil poisoning include chemical burns, nausea, mouth and throat irritation, breathing problems, seizures and liver failure, among others. If you have highly toxic essential oils like camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree and wintergreen, keep them out of reach of kids and be especially careful in their applications.
Just because they are "natural" and come from plants doesn't mean they are entirely safe. Parents should consult a doctor and check for FDA approval before using essential oils for medicinal purposes.