Diffusing Essential Oils Around Babies and Toddlers: Is it Safe?
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Your guide to diffusing essential oils around babies and toddlers
Is diffusing essential oils around babies and toddlers safe?
First of all, I think essential oils are great, and I personally use them for certain applications.
(I even own an ultrasonic cool mist humidifier that also acts as an essential oil diffuser and a night light!)
However, I would rather err on the side of caution — especially when it comes to kids.
Diffusing essential oils has gained popularity in recent years. Many will agree that diffusion could be beneficial to the entire family.
But because there is so much misinformation surrounding the subject, how can we know whether diffusing essential oils around babies is actually safe?
Just because something is “natural”, it isn’t necessarily safe. It’s always a good idea to do your research before using an essential oil diffuser, especially around kids and pets.
So, I did a little digging and wanted to share what I found regarding diffusing oils around babies.
This information is based on research that was done over a ten year span and subsequently published by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young in Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals.
Note: If you use essential oils as a home remedy, you will definitely want to invest in this book (you can find both the e-book and hard copy on Amazon). It includes over 4,000 citations and is considered the most evidence-based book on the subject.
In this article:
- Is diffusing essential oils around babies safe?
- Why diffuse essential oils in the home?
- Types of essential oils diffusers
- Safely diffusing essential oils around babies
- Are eucalyptus and peppermint oils safe for babies and toddlers?
I am not a medical professional, and this information is not intended to replace medical advice.
Is diffusing essential oils around babies safe?
First of all, is diffusing essential oils around babies safe? The quote below answers that question for us.
“Great caution is necessary for infants. Since neonatal skin does not mature until three months of age, it is more sensitive and more permeable to essential oils. A newborn is also less equipped to deal with any adverse effects than an adult because of lower metabolic capacity, i.e., enzymes present in lower concentrations. These cautions apply even more to premature babies, and here it would be prudent to avoid all use of essential oils.” (Essential Oil Safety, pages 48-49)
This quote refers to their skin (which can absorb droplets of diffused oils), but the idea certainly applies to their lungs and respiratory systems as well.
As such, I do not recommend using essential oils at all on babies younger than three months.
Tisserand advises using an ultrasonic diffuser for a maximum of 60 minutes at a time around babies and toddlers. He then recommends turning the diffuser off and leaving a rest period of 30-60 minutes before diffusing again.
However, he advises against routinely diffusing essential oils around babies and toddlers, unless doses are kept to a minimum.
This means only two to three drops per day diluted with water in an ultrasonic diffuser.
Why diffuse essential oils in the home?
People often turn to essential oils for therapeutic purposes, and diffusing them in the home is a form of aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy oils are plant oils in their natural state. In other words, these oils are very concentrated; they are typically much stronger than the plant itself.
Aromatherapy provides a number of benefits.
Reasons people diffuse essential oils in the home include:
- relaxation, improved sleep
- enhanced immunity
- relief of congestion
- odor elimination
- elevated mood
- reduced anxiety, stress
- appetite control
- insect repellent
- increased energy
- pain relief
Types of essential oil diffusers
Keep in mind that there are different types of diffusers. Here is a breakdown of the different options.
Ultrasonic: This type of diffuser uses small vibrations to release a fine mist of essential oils (diluted with water) into the air.
Heat: A heat diffuser heats up the oil, which causes it to evaporate into the room.
Fan/Evaporative: This diffuser moves air across a wick or absorbent material containing the essential oil and they evaporate into the air.
Nebulizing: A nebulizing diffuser uses cold, pressurized air to force undiluted oil molecules into an atomizer, breaking them down into fine particles and pumping them out into the air.
If you have kids, Tisserand recommends using an ultrasonic diffuser above all.
Not only are they budget-friendly, but they also act as a humidifier and a night light — so you actually get three things in one. That’s a win in my book!
This is the type of ultrasonic diffuser I use, mainly because it’s inexpensive to purchase through Amazon.
Safely diffusing essential oils around babies
Always take the proper precautions when using essential oils around kids….
- Avoid diffusing around babies under three months of age.
- Purchase good quality essential oils that are pure. In other words, they have not been mixed with another substance.
- Keep them out of direct sunlight and always use within date. This ensures the correct concentration and quality.
- Store in a safe place. This may seem obvious, but keep bottles of essential oils out of their reach. Many of the essential oil poisoning incidents have occurred when children gained access to a bottle and ingested the contents.
- Be extra cautious if your child has asthma or breathing problems. Certainly consult with a professional first if your child has any known health concerns.
- Always use a low dosage around children. The recommendation is two or three drops diluted in water using an ultrasonic diffuser.
- Additionally, limit diffusion to an hour at a time, and take 30-60 minute breaks in between.
- Always keep your diffuser clean to prevent bacteria growth.
- Be sure to research the safety of each and every oil before diffusing it around children. There is a lot of contradictory information online about which essential oils are safe for kids, so carefully consider the source of your information.
Are eucalyptus and peppermint oils safe for babies and toddlers?
Note: I am updating this post on 5/19/2020 to add this section.
While we could cover the safety of a number of different essential oils for young children, the most commonly questioned are eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil.
So, are they safe to use on babies and toddlers?
Peppermint oil is best avoided altogether until 3 years old. Then, 2-3 drops can be diffused or applied topically at up to .5% (to clarify, that’s one half of a percent) dilution.
For children under 3 years, any cineole-rich oil, such as eucalyptus globulus and eucalyptus radiata, can be diffused (2-3 drops) or applied topically up to .5% (again, one half of a percent). Over 3 years old, it can be diffused or applied topically at 1% dilution.
To quote the Tisserand Institute:
“An important update on kids and inhalation safety. I believe these guidelines are super-safe, if anything a little over-cautious. If you’re wondering about other types of eucalyptus oil, E. citriodora is safe for young kids, though is less likely to be therapeutic, and the safety of E. dives is uncertain.”
Supply list recap
Here’s a quick reference list of all the products mentioned in this post, plus a couple extra recommendations.
These items will help you get started safely diffusing essential oils around your baby or toddler!