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Using Essential Oils Safely with Babies & Children

Using Essential Oils Safely with Babies & Children

With much gratitude to Gillian Parkinson - Clinical Aromascience Practitioner (NZQA, IFPA, ITEC) at Le’Esscience  

Essential oil overview

Essential oils are a complementary health product.

An essential oil is a concentrated volatile liquid extracted from plants – it is the chemical from the plant. Each essential oil has many chemical constituents and it’s that chemical profile that tells us the expected therapeutic nature of the oil. They can be an effective method to assist in relieving symptoms for non-life threatening health conditions to be used when there is a need or a purpose.

Essential oils can be incredibly effective (if used safely) but must be highly respected as they are still a concentrated form of a chemical (despite being natural).

Safety is vital when using essential oils, especially with babies & children, chronic or acute health conditions including but not limited to: heart conditions, asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, during pregnancy, after recent surgery, or while taking regular medications.

It has been scientifically proven (by Dr Steve Humphries, Hebe Botanicals, lecturer at Massey University, NZ) that once applied topically, the properties of essential oils will be in your blood stream within two minutes and in your central nervous system within 15. They enter our hair follicles and pores.

Essential oils have a cumulative effect, which, when treating a non-life threatening medical condition, is extremely useful for when the condition is chronic (long term). However incorrect use such as undiluted use, internal use, overuse, incorrect species use for age ranges, incorrect dilutions for age ranges, these high risk methods can cause adverse reactions which can lead to a lifetime of sensitisation to essential oils.

Taking essential oils internally can cause damage to the inside of the mouth, throat and more.

The best practice standards and code of ethics of the qualified community worldwide is for topical application (correctly diluted) or via various inhalation methods. The qualified community do not support any type of internal use (via water, other beverages, foods - raw or cooked, capsules), undiluted use, overuse, or diffusing in public places such as schools, kindergartens or early childhood centres.

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Essential oils safety

Essential oils should NOT be ingested orally 

Do not ingest essential oils unless advised to do so by a practitioner who is qualified/licensed to prescribe essential oils in this way. Taking essential oils orally engages many areas of risk that other modes do not. Do not take essential oils either undiluted or in water, as there is a risk of mouth/stomach irritation. This can lead to adverse reactions and a possible lifetime of sensitisation.

For example, Lemon Essential Oil has therapeutic values, but it is also great when used as a household disinfectant in a soapy solution of water as it helps dissolve grease and grime due to its high limonene constituent. As such, orally taking Lemon Essential Oil poses a severe risk of irritating or damaging the mouth or stomach lining, and long term (4 weeks plus) essential oils can affect the gallbladder, liver & kidneys.

All the positive benefits of essential oils can be gained without needing to ingest them as outlined in the points above.

This includes using in food & beverages. When aromatics are used in the food and beverage industry, they are typically deterpenated or rectified, they are not essential oils as we know it and for good reason. These methods are what makes them safe for human consumption in food and beverages. This is something many do not understand but it is important for anyone being told to put oils in their food or water.

NEVER give babies and children any food or beverage containing essential oils - no food, no beverages, no ice blocks, confectionary, snacks, raw food etc containing essential oils – adverse reactions are inevitable especially if they are also being treated topically and via diffusers.

Essential oils are NOT a safe food additive. There is zero benefit to using them this way; they do not contain vitamins, minerals or nutrients. Please remember, essential oils are a medicine, a complementary health product. Essential oils are a highly concentrated chemical, natural yes, but still a chemical – natural means natural, natural does not necessarily mean safe.



ONLY EVER use essential oils with babies & children when there is a need or purpose, NOT just because it's ‘nice’.  

What should you do if you do have an adverse reaction?


Essential oils have a cumulative effect (so they build up in the body, this is a fact!) and depending on how long you have been using them, it can take 1-3 weeks to be out of your system.

A minor rash can be treated by applying extra virgin olive oil, but anything more from the list above, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

With babies, toddlers & children, seek medical advice straight away.

“We must realise that self-treatment, although it has its place, also has its limitations. Do treat yourself for simple common ailments, but for any long-term, or deep-seated problem, seek professional advice from a certified qualified Aromatherapist/Aromascience Practitioner”

Essential oils suitable for babies & children

There is a limit to the essential oils that are safe to use on babies and children – here is a list of essential oils suitable for children under the age of 6 years:

0-3 months:


  • Roman Chamomile

  • Lavender (species lavendula angustifolia)

  • Mandarin

These are the ONLY essential oils suitable for this age range and must ONLY be used for a need, for a purpose and I'd strongly advise, under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.

Do NOT use essential oils daily on this age range.

NEVER apply essential oils undiluted, under any circumstances.

NEVER add to food or beverages. If breast feeding and you are ingesting essential oils, cease immediately for not just your baby's benefit, but yours too.

3 months to 6 years:


  • Roman Chamomile

  • Cypress

  • Frankincense

  • Geranium

  • Ginger

  • Eucalyptus (species globulus, Smithii or radiata ONLY)

  • Lavender (lavendula angustifolia)

  • Sweet Marjoram

  • Rosemary

  • Rose Otto

  • Rosewood

  • Sandalwood

  • Tea Tree

  • Thyme (sweet)

  • Ylang Ylang

  • Bergamot

  • Lemon

  • Mandarin

  • Orange

  • Cedarwood (species cedrus atlantica)

Eucalyptus & Rosemary should be avoided if there is a history of epilepsy.

NEVER apply essential oils undiluted, under any circumstances.

NEVER add to food or beverages.

If breast feeding and you are ingesting essential oils, cease immediately for not just your baby's benefit, but yours too.

DO NOT use any other essential oils on or around this age range

Using essential oils with babies & children

Applying to the skin (in a carrier oil)

Essential oils must always be diluted in a plant-based carrier oil (when applying to the skin) such as extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed, apricot kernel etc.

For babies and children the dilution must be very low.


Children Ages Dilution Range

Up to 3 Months  

1-2 drops only per 50mls of carrier oil (0.1% – 0.2% dilution)

3-24 Months

2-4 drops only per 40mls of carrier oil (0.25% - 0.5% dilution)

2-6 Years

7-14 drops only per 35mls of carrier oil (1% – 2% dilution)

6-15 Years

10- 21 drops only per 35mls carrier oil (1.5% - 3% dilution)

15 or Older

17-35 drops only per 35mls in carrier oil (2.5% - 5% dilution)

Essential oil quick dilution guide for blending

1 % Dilution

Children over 2 years old and the elderly

2% Dilution

Healthy adult, longer term treatments

3% + Dilution  

Suitable only for acute, short term and for a small area


It is vital not to exceed the recommended dilution.

Babies' & children’s body systems are immature and cannot handle stronger dilutions.

Their liver & kidney function and respiratory systems are immature and over-exposure/over-use will lead to adverse reactions such as:

  • headaches & migraines

  • watery eyes

  • respiratory problems

  • irritability

  • gut or IBS-type symptoms

  • seizures

  • unexplained skin rashes (that can appear anywhere on the body)

  • redness

  • itching, burning/and or pain

  • hives (tiny blisters)

These adverse reactions can happen in any age range, so it is vital that you are mindful of what you are using on and around babies, toddlers & children. If you are using essential oils around this age range and not under the guidance of a qualified practitioner, please look out for the above reactions.


Essential oils can be safely diffused into the air using the ultrasonic diffusers or any other type of diffuser.

It is healthiest to only diffuse essential oils for 60 minutes with a 60-minute break, then repeat if necessary, for adults.

For babies and children, the diffusion time is 30 minutes with a 60-minute break, then repeat if necessary.

This is not only safer, but it is also more effective as both our bodies and our nervous system habituate to essential oils after this period of time. It is also advisable to allow a source of fresh air into the room/s where diffusion is being carried out.

Diffuse essential oils when there is a need, for a purpose. Overuse can lead to adverse reactions.

It is not safe to diffuse essential oils in public places, such as early childhood centres, schools, waiting rooms etc.... There is a lot to consider when using essential oils, such as age, health conditions, pregnancy etc and people simply cannot gather that type of information for everyone they are diffusing around.

Drops to use in your diffuser by age

Babies between 3 & 12 months    

1-2 drops

Babies 12 months to 6 years

2-3 drops

Children 6-12 years

4 drops

Children 12 years +

4-8 drops

NEVER diffuse essential oils around babies & children (for your own needs) that are not on the list above as suitable for babies and children.

The essential oils excluded were so because their chemical constituents are too harsh and not suitable, for example, Basil, Peppermint, Oregano, Lemongrass, Cinnamon, Clove to name a few.

Bottles of essential oils that are not suitable for babies & children should be stored away from rooms that they frequent and always out of reach.


Never add undiluted essential oils to baths. This applies to adults, babies & children.

Add the drops to 20-50mls of liquid soap, mix and then add to the bath.

Oil and water do not mix and this poses a high risk of the essential oils touching the skin and causing an adverse reaction.

Child Age Amounts

Babies 3 to 12 months    

1-2 drops + 20-50ml liquid soap

Babies 12 months to 6 years

2-3 drops + 20-50ml liquid soap

Children 6-12 years

4 drops + 20-50 ml liquid soap

Children 12 years +

4-8 drops + 20-50ml liquid soap

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