There are a number of ways to use pure and therapeutic grade essential oils to improve your health this winter. For adults, using a few drops of eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil in a diffuser can easily relieve nasal and chest congestion. If you are pregnant, or have small children, however, eucalyptus and peppermint oils aren’t a safe bet. A safer anti-congestion blend for use around small children and during pregnancy would be a few drops of juniper berry and cedarwood. If you’d still like to use your favorite anti-congestion oils, but have small children around, the best way to use these oils is to avoid diffusing them and instead use a either a personal inhaler or sprinkling a few drops on a tissue and inhaling.
There are a wide variety of opinions on the use of essential oils during pregnancy and around small children. If you have been routinely using essential oils as a non-toxic alternative to chemical fragrances, air fresheners, and humidifier additives like Vick’s VapoSteam this winter, this article has helpful links and also outlines some of the more researched safety guidelines for use of particular oils in a diffuser (I’ll explain more about diffusers vs humidifiers below) around pregnant women and small children. The information covered in this article was obtained from the International Association of Professional Aromatherapists, the site by author and certified clinical aromatherapist Lea Harris called “Using Essential Oils Safely,” the Herbal Academy, and the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.
In the paragraph below, I’ve included links to the original source material I used for this article. If you are interested in finding out more information, these are great resources for the safe use of pure, therapeutic essential oils:
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy has put together general safety guidelines for using essential oils, including during pregnancy and around children. These guidelines can be found here: https://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety . The International Association of Professional Aromatherapists has also put together pregnancy safety guidelines that can be found here: https://naha.org/assets/uploads/PregnancyGuidelines-Oct11.pdf
Lea Harris publishes a well researched blog on using essential oils safely. Of particular relevance to this article is her article found here on the use of essential oils around children: http://www.usingeossafely.com/essential-oils-and-children/
The Herbal Academy has also put together general safety guidelines for using essential oils around children and these guidelines can be found here: https://theherbalacademy.com/using-essential-oils-for-children/.
Diffusers vs. Humidifiers
A diffuser typically functions as both a humidifier, and a diffuser of essential oils. A humidifier isn’t always designed to work with essential oils. Some humidifiers get clogged easily with real essential oils, and some are made out of a specific type of plastic that can be damaged with essential oil use, so I highly recommend using a diffuser over a humidifier.
Using a diffuser during the winter can help counteract the dryness caused by winter heating systems by keep nasal passages moist. This, even without the addition of essential oils can help relieve cold, indoor allergy and flu symptoms.
Synthetic oils have little benefit at all- they simply have a scent profile similar to that of the authentic essential oil, so make sure you are using only pure organic essential oils like those from Pure Haven or Plant Therapy. In addition, most humidifier additives have chemicals and chemical fragrances, so be sure to check and read the list of inactive ingredients.
Safety Note- as with chemical additives like Vick’s Vaposteam in humidifier water, swallowing the diffuser water once essential oils are added can be toxic, so make sure if you are using a diffuser around children if is out of their reach. They should also be supervised so they can’t pull it apart if they do somehow manage to get access to the diffuser.
A Quick Word about Essential Oil “Blends”
I am not a big fan of essential oil blends (premade mixes of two or more essential oils) as they almost all contain one or more ingredients that shouldn’t be used around small children or if you are pregnant. If you have a favorite wellness blend, make sure you are reading the ingredient list and don’t use the blend if it contains one of the ingredients in the lists below.
Essential Oils that Shouldn’t be Used Around Pregnant Women:
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy has put together the following chart on essential oils to avoid during pregnancy:
Essential Oil Latin Name
Aniseed Pimpinella anisum
Basil ct. estragole Ocimum basilicum
Birch Betula lenta
*Camphor Cinnamomum camphora
Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
Parsley seed or leaf Petroselinum sativum
Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium
Sage Salvia officinalis
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus
Thuja Thuja occidentalis
Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens
Wormwood Artemisia absinthium
*This is not the same as Ho Wood/Ho Leaf chemotype Linalool (Cinnamomum camphora ct. Linalool), which has no known contraindications.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on medication, I strongly advise you to discuss the oils you plan on diffusing with your physician. It is believed that some oils can cause interference with some medications, so caution is always advised in these circumstances and if you haven’t used an oil before.
Essential Oils that Should Not be Used Around Small Children:
The Herbal Academy, as well as other sources have noted that using peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and certain essential oils made from different parts of the Rosemary plant contain high amounts of menthol, which has been found to cause slowed respiration and/or respiratory distress in some children and infants. For this reason, it is highly advised not to diffuse these three oils around children under 6, and in the case of eucalyptus oil around children under the age of 10. Instead, to combat congestion in young children, The Herbal Academy recommends “adding a drop or two of Pine, Cypress, Spruce, or Fir on a cotton ball and having your child inhale from it.”
Both the Herbal Academy as well as Lea Harris, author of Using Essential Oils Safely have compiled a list of essential oils that should not be used around children in various ways. Sometimes an oil is safe to use topically (i.e. in a lotion), but not safe to use in a diffuser. The most complete list I’ve found that differentiates uses is by Lea Harris and is here: http://www.usingeossafely.com/essential-oils-and-children/
Author Harris has also compiled a list of safe family friendly essential oil blends that can be used around children to relieve the symptoms of congestion (a common winter use of essential oils) here: http://www.usingeossafely.com/anti-congestant-essential-oils/
Safety Note- Bottles of essential oils should not be left out around children. They should be stored in a safe, dry place that children can not access. Swallowing undiluted essential oils is toxic, especially to small children. Since most essential oils are not sold with child proof caps, it is critical that essential oils are stored safely in a place children can not access.
General Safety guidelines for essential oils: Keep all essential oils out of the reach of children. If pregnant or nursing or taking medication, or under a health provider’s care, consult your doctor before using any essential oil. Do not use undiluted essential oils on the skin. Undiluted oils can have an adverse reaction when in direct contact with skin. Mix 3 drops for every 1 oz. of carrier oil on skin. Always test your skin’s sensitivity to any diluted essential oil before using. Most essential oils are not recommended for babies, children or pets. Avoid contact with eyes. Wash hands after using essential oils. This information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA. It is not intended to prescribe, treat, cure, prevent or, diagnose any disease or condition.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the author nor web site publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Cori DiDonato, C.S.C.S., NSCA-CPT is the owner of CrossFit Silver Tiger and Silver Tiger Consulting as well as a Purehaven Essentials Independent Consultant. For more health and wellness articles by Cori DiDonato, please visit: http://www.corididonato.com/library.php
Interested in Essential Oils? Check out our next article on using essential oils to boost your workout here.
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