Children Reported Being Poisoned By Essential Oils Has Doubled

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Many Parents, including myself, have the notion that if something is natural, it’s totally safe. Often we will look at natural remedies which contain essential oils, to help our children with a variety of ailments.

The use of these essential oils such as tree tea oil has become increasingly popular recently. These treatments are either rubbed onto the skin or is diffused into the air by using a vaporizer.

However according to a Tennessee poison center, children are more at risk than ever, for accidental poisoning from these essential oils – either by the incorrect dosing or ingestion of the essential oils.

Essential oils

The Center said that between the period 2011 and 2015, reports of toxic exposures to these oils doubled.

Although these oils are natural as they are derived from plants, it can cause harm when consumed and children can face an increased risk from exposure.

Certified specialist, Dr. Justin Loden from Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Tennessee Poison Center, said

“The rule of thumb in toxicology is ‘the dose makes the poison,’ so all essential oils are potentially harmful,”

In a university news release, Loden also said that

“In children, poisoning typically occurs when they try to swallow the oil, but choke so that a little of it goes into the lungs, which causes pneumonia; it only takes less than half a teaspoonful to do that. This hazard applies to every essential oil.”

Loden also mentioned the excessive application of these oils is harmful to children as their skin is thinner and can absorb dangerous amounts. Children may also try to drink the oils, which often have a pleasant smell. A child may choke due to the bitter taste and it will send the oil down into their airways and their lungs.

The Researchers noted that the following essential oils are highly toxic:

camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, and wintergreen oils and many of these can cause symptoms such as agitation, hallucinations, seizures, chemical burns, breathing problems, liver failure and brain swelling, among others.

Tennessee Poison Center Tips for using essential oils

Safely using and storing essential oils is extremely important

• Use essential oil products ONLY for their intended purpose.
• Use only the amount stated on the label/guide.
• Do not swallow an essential oil unless the label says to do so.
• Do not use a product on the skin unless the label says to do so.
• Do not leave the product out (i.e. as a pesticide) unless the label says to do so.
• If you have bottles of essential oils at home, keep them locked up, out of sight and reach of children and pets at all times. Children act fast, so do poisons.

Hopefully, you won’t ever need to – but if you suspect your child has been harmed, do contact the Poison Control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

For more about essential oil safety, visit the National Capital Poison Center.

SOURCE: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, news release, May 10, 2016


  1. CaRo Burgos

    June 1, 2016 at 6:02 am

    Florencia García

  2. Ruth

    September 3, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Hi, I found your article very interesting. Do you have any sources to cite? Wanting to share this with friends, but some are very skeptical. Thanks!

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