Aromatherapy for Children

Safety and Formulations…

Safe Diffusing {Three months and up}

Practicing safe diffusion is important for children. If essential oils need to be used under the age of two, diffusion is my preferred method of use. For under two, 10 minutes of diffusion is likely plenty of time for them to obtain the oils therapeutic benefits. Older children two and up can likely tolerate 10 – 20 minutes of diffusion. In both instances, be sure to take a reasonable break of about 45 minutes to 1 hour before turning the diffuser on again. There are many diffusers with handy timers so you can set it and have peace of mind that you are not diffusing for too long.

What are the risks of over diffusing? Habituation is a concern. When you have diffused for too long a time period, you may no longer notice the aroma, but it can begin to put stress on the body rather than be beneficial. There is also a risk of overexposure that can result in headaches, nausea, dizziness, and an overall feeling of being unwell. As parents, it is therefore important to keep diffusing times down as in many cases little children are not going to be able to vocalize that they are feeling unwell.

  • For further information on diffusing safety, see the book Essential Oil Safety 2e by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young


Aromatherapy Inhalers

On average, the age recommended for aromatherapy inhalers is five and up. There are two reasons that I agree with this recommendation. We need to asses the maturity of the child. They need to understand what they are using and why. As a parent, it is important for you to asses your child and decides if they are ready at five to handle it. If you are not sure, I recommend waiting a bit longer. The second reason for the recommendation is that inhalers are a direct method of inhalation, whereas diffusers are considered to be a more passive method of diffusion. Less is more.

Lastly, if you are sending your children to school with an inhaler with permission, be sure that they understand they are never to be shared with their classmates.


Using A Double Boiler

A double boiler is essentially a pot within a pot. If you have two saucepans that fit inside each other with adequate space in between for water, you are set. You can also use one saucepan and a thick-walled glass bowl to sit on top, it will work equally well. Lastly, you can place a Pyrex dish inside a saucepan and melt your solid ingredients this way.

The goal is to heat your water just before boiling. The lower the heat the better to melt/soften your ingredients {NEVER add essential oils at this stage}.

You will only need a few inches of water to accomplish your goal. If you are looking to melt down beeswax, emulsifying wax, shea butter or cocoa butter, etc., add those ingredients to the double boiler, saving the other carrier oil, essential oils, vitamin E, etc. once your product has begun to cool. The other oils can degrade quickly when heated.

Be sure to always supervise what you are doing in the kitchen {do not leave unattended}, stirring frequently.

Cleaning your container can be tricky if you let the ingredients completely cool. Immediately after pouring your concoction, wipe your container clean with a paper towel and wash with warm soapy water. If needed, place into the dishwasher for one cycle. Your container will be good as new. Even so, I have invested in pots, measuring spoons, etc. designed for formulating, these are separate of the ones I cook food in.

Topical Use {Three months and up}

In general, when using essential oils topically, less is more. In general, a 0.5%- 1% dilution for children two and up is appropriate, six and up can go up to 1%- 2%. If your child is between six months and two years, 0.5% is a good start. For ages three to six months, I prefer diffusion, but if you need a spot treatment, 0.25%- 0.5% is what I recommend, dependent on the area you are applying. What do I mean by that? If you are applying to the bum, 0.5% works. If you are applying to a larger area, go down to 0.25%. No oil topically under three months is a general recommendation. Always start with the lesser amount, it may be all you need. If you feel a situation is warranted for topical use, do not apply more often than every three to four hours, or no more than four times a day.

  • For further information on diffusing safety, see the book Essential Oil Safety 2e by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young

Another great option for babies is the use of hydrosols. Hydrosols can be used neat or diluted, with a much lower risk of skin irritation. Never use essential oils undiluted on the skin, even if it is just the bottoms of their feet, no matter the oil. Safety first.

Books I recommend that cover safety and use for hydrosols:

Catty, S. {2001} Hydrosols, The Next Aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press

Harman, A. {2015} From Harvest to Hydrosol. Fruitland, WA: IAG Botanics LLC dba botANNicals

Essential Oils in the Bath {Not for all ages}

When we look at basic chemistry, we know that essential oils will not mix with water, even when the water is hot. So what is the way to safely use essential oils in the bath? A proper diluent is necessary. The excipient needs to emulsify the water and oil properly to avoid skin irritation. A very small amount of fragrance-free organic shampoo is my number one choice to accomplish this. I say fragrance-free, as you want to avoid any possible chance of urogenital irritation. 1 tbsp of shampoo is all that is needed. I like to recommend a formulation like this:

  • Epsom salt 1/2 cup {excellent to help your little wind down before bed}
  • Fragrance-free organic shampoo 1 tbsp
  • Essential oil 2 – 4 drops

Use the least amount for littles. Four drops are more appropriate for pre-teens/teens

Mix into a container, then add to bath

Epsom salt, Himalayan sea salt, baking soda, etc., will not emulsify oil and water. Safety first! Always supervise small children. There is no “set” age for oil in the bath, but as a general precaution, if your child is still putting toys in the mouth, splashing, etc., don’t do it. I recommend waiting as long as you feel is needed, five or older may be a good starting point. Hydrosols will be the safer choice here for littles. Parents, please use your discretion.

Steam Tent {Not for all ages}

Heat water on the stovetop to just before boil {be sure not to make it too hot}. Pour into a stainless steel or glass bowl, place 1 – 2 drops of essential oil blend in the bowl and lean over the bowl, covering their head with a towel. Inhale the steam, alternating through the nose and mouth as long as the steam is present {3 – 5 minutes}. Make sure they keep their eyes closed.

Can repeat every few hours as needed. Older children can lean over a plugged sink rather than a bowl if desired as it then lessens the chance of spillage.

  • Test the heat of the steam before you let your child try it. Always supervise as you are using extremely warm water and essential oils. Recommended for children five and up {dependent on the maturity of child}, for the same reasons as an aromatherapy inhaler. Parents, if you feel your child is not responsible enough, please wait another year or two. Use your discretion.

Hydrous Product

When making sprays that contain water, it is important to remember that if you intend it to be for long-term use, a preservation system is crucial. Without this, your product will become a science experiment in no time. You will notice that a number of my sprays include alcohol, at 190 proof, and 30% of your total volume, to be safe. This will also help to emulsify your oil and water. Make note that anything above around 20% alcohol can be drying to the skin. The Bye Bye Buzzing recipe, for example, can be drying, but the essential oils used should help combat it.

Please make a note, that witch hazel is NOT a sufficient replacement for alcohol. Use up any water based product with no preservative within a week, a few days is best.

Master Blends

When blending from scratch, master blends can be really helpful. If you are unsure where to start and add a few drops of this and a few drops of that until you find what you like, it will be near impossible to recreate the scent more than once. Drops are not an exact science, so unless you are weighing your oils on a scale, a re-creation of a signature scent will be difficult.

Another benefit to making a master blend is if you really love it and use it frequently, you can grab it from your cold storage and use it as needed, when needed, rather than always blending on the fly.

What is Solubol?

Solubol is a food grade emulsifier {dispersant} and is very effective at emulsifying essential oils in water. Note ingredients for possible allergies: Vegetable Glycerin, Coconut Extract, Soy Lecithin, Maltodextrin {derived from whaet}, Acacia gum {gum arabic}, Vitamins E and C, and Rosemary Extract. The recommended dilution from the manufacturer is four parts solubol to one part essential oil.