As more and more people turn to essential oil diffusers for their needs, there are more and more questions popping up about the safety of these oils especially when diffusing essential oils around babies, infants or toddlers. These questions might be about the effects of the oils or these questions could be about what type of oil is best for a certain situation. However, there is one question that has been cropping up more and more frequently.
More parents are beginning to wonder if essential oils are safe to diffuse around babies. The answer to this is a little bit complicated and there are a lot of different factors to consider. For example, is a baby considered a newborn, an infant, or a toddler? Which oil do you want to diffuse? What exactly is in the oil? What type of diffuser are you using? The answer on whether or not it is safe to use a diffuser is going to depend on these factors.
As for the what oil you want to use, will need to keep in mind that, even if they are all-natural, essential oils can and will be toxic if they are misused. This goes for adults but especially for children and babies as they don’t have fully developed bodies yet. As for the types of diffusers, there are two that you will want to look at: ultrasonic and nebulizers.
Types of Diffusers
Ultrasonic diffusers are the more common diffuser. They release a fine mist of water and the essential oils that you added to the bowl in the base. Typically, you only put a few drops of oil in the bowl, which contains a comparatively large amount of water. This ensures that it stays diluted, keeping it as safe as possible for your baby. For babies, experts recommend no more than 60 minutes of ultrasonic diffuser use at a time. There should also be a rest period of 30-60 minutes in between uses of the diffuser. With these diffusers, using them routinely for children is not recommended unless the total amount used for the whole day equals only a few drops of oil.
Nebulizer diffusers are the more beautiful counterpart to ultrasonic ones. They diffuse the oils purely, meaning that they will not be diluted, which some parents might not feel comfortable with. However, this type of diffuser is far less time-consuming. Ultrasonic diffusers take about two or three hours to completely diffuse a few drops of oil. On the other hand, nebulizers can diffuse the same amount in about ten minutes. Adults are advised to only use nebulizer diffusers for only a few ten-minute cycles per day so it is safe to assume that you should use it even less around babies.
Now that you know a little bit more about the diffusers, you can now begin learning about whether or not it is safe to diffuse essential oils around babies.
Is it Safe to Diffuse Essential Oils Around Babies?
To put it simply, it depends on the age of the baby and what exactly is in the oil. When you are trying to figure out the age range of safe diffuser use, you should start with the fact that the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians recommends not using any essential oils around newborns until they are at least three months old. For premature babies, you should wait until three months after what the due date should have been. The reasoning for this is because when babies are born, parts of them are still not fully developed. Even after being in the womb for nine months, a newborn’s skin and respiratory system are just getting used to the world. Using essential oils at this age could have fatal results. With that being said, if you really want to relieve your newborn’s congestion or you simply want to add more moisture to the air, you can consider diffusing plain tap water in an ultrasonic diffuser as a safe alternative. Of course, you should also make sure that you talk to a doctor or a specialist in the area if you have any questions about risks.
What Risks Are There and How Can You Prevent Them?
Aside from this, most of the risk for babies comes from the chance that a curious child might ingest the oil. Ingesting any essential oil can be fatally toxic, especially for a baby. To prevent this from happening, you should treat your essential oils as you would anything else that could potentially endanger your child’s life. You should store them in a safe place away from where your children can get to, keep them out of sunlight, make sure that you use them by their dates, and make sure that you follow the instructions for use. Doing this can prevent the chances that something goes wrong.
The type of oil you plan to diffuse also makes an enormous difference. Some common oils, such as lavender, chamomile, mandarin, sweet marjoram, fir needle, and distilled lemon, are all safe when used in proper moderation. Other common oils, such as eucalyptus, have a lot more controversy surrounding them. Eucalyptus, when applied directly to the skin of an infant even in a small concentration, can have risky side effects. On the other hand, when diffused, eucalyptus has a lot less risk. However, if you want to play things cautiously, you should put a very small amount in the diffuser at first and see how the child reacts.
And then, there are some oils that have been ruled as unsafe for children. Peppermint is one such oil.
Diffusing Peppermint Oil Around Babies
Peppermint oil is one of those oils that you should avoid using around babies altogether. In fact, according to Robert Tisserand, peppermint oils can be diffused with care when children reach about three years of age at minimum. Even then, there should be no more than two drops of oil in an ultrasonic diffuser. There are many reasons why this caution is in place.
When babies are in the womb, their respiratory system is the last system that they develop. This is one of the reasons why premature babies often have trouble with breathing. Even after a baby has been born, the respiratory system is still new and sensitive to everything that goes near it. Peppermint oil, which contains the constituent cineole, can act negatively on the temperature receptors of those young lungs. As a result, your child’s breathing will slow down. Depending on the age, health, and condition of your child, this can result in irreversible damage. It is best to avoid even purchasing peppermint oil until your child is at least three years old.
What About an Alternative?
However, peppermint oil is a great oil for relieving congestion. If your baby becomes congested and a simple water diffuser isn’t doing the trick, what should you do? Eucalyptus oil, which some people compare to peppermint oil in this aspect because it has the constituent cineole, is in a similar boat. Instead of eucalyptus or peppermint oils, you should actually look at fir needle oil. This has been an alternative to eucalyptus oil for a long time, making it a perfect solution for getting the congestion relief that your baby needs without putting his or her life in danger.
What If You Only Have Peppermint Oil?
If your child is congested and the only essential oil you have is peppermint oil, you should be well prepared for the risks. Of course, you should try to make sure that a water diffuser isn’t going to work just as well first. If you are certain that you are willing to take the risks of diffusing peppermint oil, there are a few things that you can do to try and mitigate the potential damage. For one, you will definitely want to use an ultrasonic diffuser to try and dilute the solution as much as possible.
Next, you will want to put an even lower concentration of oil in the diffuser than you would if you were testing out an oil for the first time. Consider only using one drop of oil in the entire diffuser. This prevents more oils from entering your child’s lungs than necessary. While it might not be as effective as a full two or three drops, it reduces the chance that your child’s breathing will be severely altered by the oil.
Once the diffusing process begins, make sure that you watch the child closely and have a phone and exit nearby. Listen to your baby’s breathing before you begin the diffusing process so that you have a point of reference to make. There’s a good chance that your child will not be too comfortable with the cooling sensation that peppermint oil provides. You should comfort the baby during this process, especially if the cooling effect seems to be discomforting. If at any point you notice that your child’s breathing has slowed down, you should remove the child from the room and take him or her to a source of fresh air, regardless of whether the diffusing process is complete. Don’t take your child back to the room with the peppermint oil and continue monitoring the breathing to make sure that he or she is okay overall. If you believe that he or she is not okay, you should contact a doctor immediately.