Many of us have enjoyed some of the healing properties of essential oils, including tea tree oil, lavender, eucalyptus, and many others, but it’s important to know that should your children or animals ingest any of these homeopathic oils, it could be toxic for them.
And with the increased acceptance of these oils, the Tennessee poison control center reported that cases of toxicity for children doubled between 2011 and 2015. The Center warns parents to be very vigilant when it comes to storage and explaining to kids that these oils are not for eating. That’s because the vast majority of poison cases coming in have involved children.
It’s paramount to read the labels and keep bottles out of kids’ curious hands and mouths, experts agree. Dr. Justin Loden, who works at the poison center inside of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, warns that “… in toxicology, … ‘the dose makes the poison,’ so all essential oils are potentially harmful.”
And that harm isn’t always manifested in the way that you might think. Dr. Loden says that the strong oils can cause a choking reaction if swallowed by little mouths, and that pushes the oil into the lungs, subsequently causing pneumonia. He notes that only ½ a teaspoon of any oil can create this situation.
But that’s not the only warning from the Tennessee physician. He notes that simply applying too much, or the wrong kind, of essential oil to the skin can also do harm, particularly for small children. Their skin is more fragile than that of an adult, and also being thinner, it absorbs the oils more readily.
While none are safe to ingest, the worst offenders, according to Loden, are oils such as thyme, tea tree, wintergreen, camphor, clove, lavender, and eucalyptus. Some of these can even cause the person who eats them to have seizures or hallucinate. And the list of possible reactions goes from bad to worse, because everything from difficulty breathing to brain swelling, liver failure, and even chemical burns are also possible bad outcomes.
Remember, it’s not just kids who can get into things they should not: pets are also subject to be Curious Georges and Georgettes, so be sure they cannot access the oils at all, particularly as they are so smell-driven.
It’s obviously just common sense, as with any substance you don’t want your kids or animals to get ahold of, to keep any essential oils out of their reach and safely locked in a cabinet or closet. In case your children do eat anything they shouldn’t, keep this number for the Poison Control Center handy: 1-800-222-1222. The center number operates 24/7/365.
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