Essential Oil Safety With Children

When it comes to using essential oils, the phrase ‘less is more’ is particularly relevant. Essential oils are extremely powerful. One drop of peppermint oil is equal to 28 cups of peppermint tea. When applied topically, an essential oil reaches the bloodstream and enters the cells of the body very quickly and easily. Essential oils must be treated with respect, including choosing an appropriate dose, route, site of application, frequency, and duration of use. For example, as part of my ear infection treatment protocol, I recommend a ratio of 1 drop of oregano oil to 5 drops of coconut oil and applying a dime size to the bottom of the foot twice daily for 7 days. ‘A dab of this, a dab of that’ is not a safe practice. For advice on administration (dose, route, site, frequency, and duration), contact your local aromatherapist or pediatrician.

Can I use essential oils with my baby?

I do not recommend the use of any essential oils via any route with infants 0 to 6 months of age.

How should I give essential oils to my children?

Essential oils can be applied topically, inhaled by diffusion, and internally ingested. Topical administration is a great way to use essential oils. It allows you to treat one person at a time (as opposed to diffusing, where everyone in the room receives the administration). When applying topically, it is very important to use a diluent, also called a carrier oil. Most essential oils cannot be applied NEAT (without a carrier oil). You must have an appropriate diluent with essential oil use, such as coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil. I highly recommend fractionated coconut oil, as it uses the most antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of the coconut, and helps absorb the oil very quickly into the skin. For young children especially, use no less than 5 drops of diluent for every 1 drop of essential oil. Diffusing essential oils is helpful when you are trying to treat everyone in the room, and you only need to diffuse for 30 minutes per dose to receive the benefits of the oil. Ingesting essential oils should never be used for children 7 years of age or younger, or pregnant women. Some essential oil professionals recommend ingesting no more than 3 drops of an essential oil 3 times a day. While this is a general safety precaution, it is oversimplified as every oil is unique and can affect the body differently. When ingesting, always do so with the help of a medical professional or aromatherapist. While the benefits can be numerous, not all essential oil use comes without side effects.

Are certified therapeutic grade essential oils necessary?

While companies such as Young Living and DoTerra market the pureness of their oils, some oils are of lesser quality, and have added ingredients and diluents, making them less pure. I happily recommend Young Living, DoTerra, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Vintage Remedies essential oils. Always feel free to do your own research and make choices you are comfortable with.

What are some family friendly oils?

Basil for ear infections, cedarwood for sleeping and calming, cilantro for anxiety, eucalyptus for respiratory issues, frankincense for inflammation and warts, lavender for itching, pain, and burns, lemon for cleansing, tea tree for disinfecting, oregano for viruses, peppermint for fevers, and wild orange for uplifting, among others. Some doTerra blends I recommend are Breathe for respiratory issues, DigestZen for nausea and stomach pain, OnGuard for infectious diseases, and Balance for short attention span. Be aware that blends are not always ‘one size fits all.’ You may need to make your own blend to avoid a particular oil in a pre-made commercial blend. Also, not all blends are age appropriate, so exercise discretion. Again, always discuss administration practices with your care provider to ensure the proper dose, route, site, frequency, and duration are used.

Any other safety precautions?

Some people have sensitivities and allergies to certain essential oils. I recommend doing a whiff or spot test before using a particular oil regularly or covering a large area. A reaction to an essential oil could appear as symptoms of chest tightness or wheezing when inhaled, a skin rash or burn when administered topically, or imbalance of intestinal microbiota when ingested. Oils should always be kept high and away from children. Diffusers should always be placed above eye level to prevent a young child from drinking the water. In the case of accidental overdose or ingestion, immediately call the Poison Control Center Hotline at 1 (800) 222-1222.

Essential oils can be a helpful, natural alternative to chemically-laden creams, unwarranted antibiotic treatments, and other pharmaceutical medical treatments. Integrative healthcare attempts to weigh the risks and benefits of each treatment and proposes essential oils when it is medically indicated and appropriate for the person receiving them. At Hopewell Family Care, we respect the use of essential oils and work to help our patients utilize them in a safe and therapeutic manner.

Jaimeé Arroyo Novak, FNP


AromaTools (October 2013). Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils, 5th Ed. Orem, UT: AromaTools.

Vintage Remedies, Inc (2016).