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Essential Oils for Babies and Children: Usage and Safety Guidelines

by Lisa on September 23, 2014

How to Dilute Oils

A premature infant’s skin is about 2.5 times more permeable than our skin. Additionally, during the first 4 weeks of life, the skin changes significantly as the baby develops and adjusts to being outside of the womb. The change continues to occur at a very high rate through 12 weeks of age, so it’s important to be very careful of topical application of anything during this time. I’d like to note that this precaution doesn’t just apply to essential oils. It applies to anything you put on your baby’s skin!

Dilution ratios are not really a hot topic, but there are varying directions given by different experts. Kurt Schnaubelt recommends diluting essential oils based on baby’s age. Debra Raybern suggests using a 1:30 (essential oil to carrier oil) ratio, and other sources on the Internet provide different advice as well. I even saw one source say dilution should be 1 drop of essential oil in 1/2 or 1 teaspoon (note: I don’t agree with that advice).

Robert Tisserand’s recommendation is one of the more specific in terms of the dilution rates, and identifies differences  based on age.  He also states that premature infants should avoid oils, but that oils can be used on full-term infants.

{Skip the following part if you’re not interested in understanding the math explanation for how many drops of EO to use in a given amount of carrier oil!}

Dilution Rates according to Robert Tisserand:

Age Recommended EO concentration (%) Maximum EO concentration (%)
Premature infant 0 0
Up to 3 months 0.1 0.2
3-24 months 0.25 0.5
2-6 years 1.0 2.0
6-15 years 1.5 3.0
15+ years 2.5 5.0

 

So now, how the heck do you translate this information into drops of essential oils and teaspoons or tablespoons of carrier oils?!

Consider this:

1 Tbsp = ~300 drops of oil

To determine how many drops of essential oil to add to a tablespoon, decide the concentration you want (for example, you have a 2 month old baby and want a 0.1% concentration of EO).

Next, multiply the concentration of EO by the amount of carrier oil you’ll use.

(note: 0.1% = 0.001)

0.001 x 300 = 0.3 drops

In 1 Tbsp of carrier oil, you’ll add 0.3 drops of EO. Since this isn’t easy to do, just make a larger batch. Use 4 Tbsp of carrier oil and 1 drop of EO.

The formula:

(# drops of carrier oil) x (desired concentration of EO) = # drops EO

Just remember, you’ll have to convert the percent to a number, so just move the decimal point over to the left by two places before multiplying.

Or use this chart instead to skip a couple steps.

{Start Reading Here if you skipped the math part!}

EO Concentration Recommendations by Age:

Age Recommended EO concentration (in drops per 100) Maximum EO concentration (in drops per 100)
Premature infant 0 0
Up to 3 months 0.001 0.002
3-24 months 0.0025 0.005
2-6 years 0.01 0.02
6-15 years 0.015 0.030
15+ years 0.025 0.05

 

Formula: How many drops of EO to use per tablespoon:

300 x EO concentration = # drops per tablespoon

How to store oils:

Oils will last longest in the fridge, but if you’re going to use them within a year, just keep them in a cool dry dark place (a cupboard—not in the bathroom) with the caps on tightly.

Store substances containing essential oils in glass, silicone, or metal containers. Storing in plastic can cause some of the plastic chemicals to leech into the oils.

 

Applying Oils Safely:

Avoid applying oils to babies where they can reach their hands because they may rub their eyes after touching the oils. Good locations are: diaper area (for diaper rash), lower back, bottoms of feet (depending on the child), scalp (depending on child).

Always do a patch test first. Rub one drop of oil (already mixed with carrier oil) on the baby’s forearm. If no reaction occurs within several minutes, use the oil as intended.

“More” is not necessarily better. When you apply oils, the carrier oil acts as both a barrier for skin penetration by the EO, and also helps to keep the EO on the skin longer.

Besides few exceptions on older children, do not use EOs on broken skin. (example: one drop of Helichrysum can be put undiluted into a wound to stop bleeding).

Keep EOs away from children’s reach. EOs are very safe, but they are meant to be used in small amounts. EO bottles should always have dropper tops to prevent a child from being able to swallow or drink the EO.

 

Diffusing Recommendations:

There are not a lot of recommendations surrounding diffusing. We’ve found that diffusing 4-8 drops of oil for 20-30 minutes twice a day works well for us. When you choose which oils you’ll diffuse, then consider for how long and how many drops you want to diffuse. For example, if I’m going to diffuse lavender in the evening to promote relaxation, I will probably do it for 30 minutes before bedtime and include about 4 drops of lavender.

 

Summary:

The bottom line with essential oil safety for infants and children is that it’s important to use common sense and follow a few guidelines in order to get the most effective results. People put all kinds of chemicals on their children’s skin everyday—sunscreen, shampoo, lotions, ointments, diaper rash creams, and more. Sometimes they have warning labels (like don’t give your baby Tylenol until a certain age, etc), and some of them don’t.

Don’t let the guidelines for EO safety make you think that the oils are dangerous or risky. When I began to buy high quality unadulterated essential oils from a reputable source, they replaced all the junk in my medicine cabinet and many of my toiletries. I also made it a goal to learn enough about how to use them properly on my baby so that I could avoid using so many of the toxic substances that are on the market today.

 

Check out the resource list provided if you want to read more about the science and safety aspect of essential oils. Check out reputable sources for how to use your oils.

Recommended Books:

a.     Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals by Robert Tisserand http://amzn.to/1v2Fbmo

b.     The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils by Kurt Schnaubelt http://amzn.to/1ppyZPO

c.      Gentle Babies by Debra Raybern http://amzn.to/1mqbZVN

 *DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Any products or techniques mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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