Essential Oils Linked To Increasing Child Poisoning Reports, Poison Center Warns
A growing number of children are being poisoned by essential oils, after swallowing or ingesting the concentrated liquids used by many adults for aromatic and homeopathic remedies, according to one poison control center.
The number of reports of essential oil poisoning received in recent years has doubled, according to a warning issued this week by the Tennessee Poison Center (TPC), which indicates that children appear to be disproportionately affected by the risk.
Essential oils, sold by a number of companies and under various brand names, have become very popular in recent years with both internet and direct sales increasing. They contain fragrant and highly concentrated natural constituents found in plants, which are used to provide a wide variety of claimed homeopathic health benefits
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While they are widely believed to be safe and help avoid potential side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, essential oils are toxic when ingested or aspirated, especially by children.
The Tennessee Poison Center reported essential oil exposures doubled between 2011 and 2015, and 80% of those cases involved children.
Essentials oils can be applied to the skin, ingested and diffused into the air by a vaporizer. Officials report the primary route of poisoning is ingestion, but it can also occur by excessive or inappropriate application to the skin.
Children are especially at risk because they may try to ingest the oil from the container. Most have a pleasant enticing smell but are bitter to taste. This will often cause children to easily choke and aspirate the oil into their lungs.
Nearly all oils will produce throat and oral irritation in children. Some children may experience nausea and vomiting. In some cases central nervous system (CNS) stimulation occurs, which results in agitation, hallucinations, delirium, and seizures. At other times, they can cause CNS depression, which results in lethargy and coma.
“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 2 milliliters (less than half a teaspoonful) to do that,” said Justin Loden, Pharm.D., certified specialist in Poison Information (CSPI) at TPC. “This hazard applies to every essential oil. Children have also been poisoned by excessive or inappropriate application of essential oils to the skin.”
A child’s skin absorbs essential oils much easier than an adults, putting them at higher risk for topical poisoning. In addition, the protective barrier that covers a child’s brain is easily penetrated.
Other toxic effects may include painless chemical burns, hypotension, acute respiratory distress syndrome, acute liver failure, severe metabolic acidosis, and cerebral edema depending on which essential oil is used.
Any essential oil can pose a risk when ingested, but some of the more toxic oils include, camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree and wintergreen. Some oils that are deemed more potent or toxic by manufacturers are packaged with childproof caps, but the majority of oils come packaged in dark colored bottles with screw caps.
“Tea tree oil is commonly cited, and most of those cases are accidental ingestions by children,” Loden said.
Officials from the Tennessee Poison Control Center emphasize oils should be stored safely and properly. Parents should keep the bottles of essential oils locked up, out of sight and out of the reach of children. Essential oils should only be used as directed, only put on a person’s skin if the label indicates, and should only be swallowed if the label directs.
If a person ingests an essential oil or a product containing essential oils, poison control should be notified immediately.
heatherMay 20, 2016 at 1:59 pm
No essential oil, should ever be used "neat", as in pure, without being diluted in a carrier oil, it can damage an adults skin as well. Some essential oils, do have side effects including sun sensitivity, skin sensitivity and possible drug interaction issues. They used be used with care, by adults, and kept away from children at all times.
IrenaMay 20, 2016 at 6:42 am
Essential oils should never be ingested whether children or adults. Some MLM companies advocate taking essential oils in water. This is very dangerous. Essential oils and water do not mix. Straight essential oils taken internally can burn the mucous membranes of the mouth or the esophagus. Undiluted essential oils used on babies can cause a severe burn. I am a Certified Aromatherapist and would ne[Show More]Essential oils should never be ingested whether children or adults. Some MLM companies advocate taking essential oils in water. This is very dangerous. Essential oils and water do not mix. Straight essential oils taken internally can burn the mucous membranes of the mouth or the esophagus. Undiluted essential oils used on babies can cause a severe burn. I am a Certified Aromatherapist and would never advocate taking essential oils internally. Essential oils in any form should not be used on children under 2 years of age. Over 2 years of age, highly diluted topically only. Think of how much plant material takes to product 1 DROP of essential oil. For some essential oils, it takes pounds of the raw material to product just one drop of oil.
BobMay 19, 2016 at 3:47 pm
FYI - Homeopathic "remedies" are highly DILUTED, not "highly concentrated." In fact, they are most often diluted to the point that none of the original ingredient exists in the product. I think the word you were looking for (instead of homeopathic) was "naturopathic."
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