For years now, bloggers and experts alike have touted the incredible benefits of eucalyptus. The versatile plant improves sleep quality, lower blood pressure, and decrease stress and anxiety. Eucalyptus also helps keep you healthy by working as a decongestant and antiseptic, just to list a few.
This laundry list of benefits may have you interested in adding eucalyptus to your home, or perhaps you have already taken that step. However, if you have children around your home, you may have read that eucalyptus is unsafe to use around kids. While there is definitely truth in this claim, it's a bit more nuanced than a black or white "yes" or "no" when it comes to the question, "Is eucalyptus safe to use around kids?" With that being said, let's dive into the intricacies of the eucalyptus and children debate.
What Makes Eucalyptus Bad for Kids?
First, let's get the most weighty part of the discussion out of the way. What exactly are these harmful effects that eucalyptus can cause in children?
The main effects include coughing, headaches, nausea and vomiting, lethargy, and in the most serious cases, seizures, according to the National Library of Medicine, a Canadian study of over 250 children who ingested either camphor or eucalyptus oils orally. Eucalyptus has also been anecdotally linked to breathing problems in children as its particles are particularly adept at infiltrating the upper and lower airways which can aggravate existing lung conditions.
The major detail to note here is that the study focused on the direct ingestion of eucalyptus oil rather than the diffusion of it.
According to the Royal Children's Hospital of Melbourne, ingesting a dose of greater than 5mL of eucalyptus typically leads to severe symptoms which include depression of the central nervous system and in extreme cases, can lead to a coma. If your child ingests any eucalyptus oil at all, call your local Poison Control immediately or take them to a local medical facility.
Research clearly shows that children ingesting any form of eucalyptus oil or part of the plant can have severe repercussions, but why is that so with eucalyptus and not other plants? Much of the problem stems from a compound called cineole.
Also known as eucalyptol, 1,8-cineole is a compound that often makes up 40% or more of the eucalyptus oil. This ingredient is the culprit behind damage to the central nervous system, often causing interruptions in the central nervous systems' electrical signaling system. These interruptions in electrical activity within the nervous system can cause the aforementioned headaches and nausea when the damage is mild. Consuming higher concentrations of cineole or having heightened sensitivity to the compound can lead to the more severe reactions such as seizures.
Clearly, the ingestion of eucalyptus is not something to scoff at. But before you throw out all your eucalyptus essential oils, shower bundles, and other products, keep reading to learn how you can keep your children safe while continuing to benefit from the use of eucalyptus in your home.
What Forms of Eucalyptus Are Dangerous?
While it's easy to have the knee-jerk reaction of 'all eucalyptus is dangerous,' that's actually not the case. The main determinants of whether or not eucalyptus is safe to be used around children relies on two things:
1. How much cineole is present in the eucalyptus?
Different chemotypes of eucalyptus have different amounts of the 1,8-cineole compound. While cineole has valuable uses and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can be useful in treating certain respiratory and heart conditions, its powerful nature can also be hazardous to children, as demonstrated by the list of side effects above. The more cineole, the stronger the side effects and hazards have the potential to be.
While all eucalyptus is going to have cineole present, it is possible to check the percentage of cineole in the eucalyptus species you are purchasing if you are locally sourcing or growing your own eucalyptus. When buying online or from a store, it may be harder to determine this, but it is something to keep in mind.
2. What form is the eucalyptus in?
This is perhaps the easiest way to protect yourself and your children from any mishaps with eucalyptus. There are several forms of using eucalyptus with varying levels of potency and danger associated with them for children.
- Pure Eucalyptus:
STAY AWAY! Ingesting pure eucalyptus is toxic to adults and children alike. Never ever orally ingest pure eucalyptus oil or any part of the eucalyptus plant. Ingesting eucalyptus oil can lead to eucalyptus poisoning and even ingesting a small amount can lead to severe symptoms like nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness while higher amounts (defined as 5mL or more) can result in a coma and compromising of the respiratory system in some cases.
If you or anyone you know has orally ingested eucalyptus oil, seek medical assistance right away.
- Topical Eucalyptus:
It is popular in many families to apply eucalyptus oil topically in order to receive certain health benefits. While not yet scientifically proven, many users report experiencing antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects from the eucalyptus as a result of applying it to their skin. These may result in increased moisture, protection against environmental damage to the skin, and speedier wound healing.
It is NOT recommended to apply eucalyptus oil directly on the skin, particularly for children. In fact, frequent repeated applications can lead to eucalyptus poisoning.
Dermatologists Claire Chang and Deanne Robinson both advise against the use of eucalyptus oil on the skin, counseling users to avoid all topical use when pregnant or nursing as well as around children. Furthermore, it's worth noting that neither of them endorse using topical eucalyptus oil even for adults as they feel there aren't "science-backed, compelling enough benefits" to recommend it.
If you choose to use topical eucalyptus oil on yourself (as an adult), make sure to follow the proper dilution guidelines with carrier oils to maintain your own safety. It's also worth considering whether or not you could obtain the same value from the eucalyptus oil by inhaling or diffusing it rather than applying it directly to your skin as there are less risks associated with non-direct application.
- Diffusing Eucalyptus:
Finally, the third form of eucalyptus is diffusion! This is when compounds from the eucalyptus plant are released into the air usually either through steam or a diffuser. The least dangerous of the three, diffusing eucalyptus does not involve directly applying eucalyptus oil to your skin but rather breathing it in through the air around you.
Most experts agree that it is safe to diffuse eucalyptus around children and babies although you are advised to use caution and diffuse for limited periods of time with children under age 3. This might look like limiting the amount of time you leave a diffuser on or making sure that there is good ventilation in the room where the diffuser and your child or children are. Of course, if you begin to notice any negative effects after diffusing, stop use immediately and consult your doctor.
How Can Eucalyptus Be Used Safely Around Kids?
The best way to use eucalyptus around children is to diffuse it into the air rather than apply it directly. This comes with the least safety risks and the greatest benefits to your family's health. Plus, there are plenty of ways to bring variety into the way you use eucalyptus in your home!
For starters, there's the standard eucalyptus bundle which you can hang over the shower to diffuse its oils when met with the steam from the shower. You may also be interested in trying out Self-Care Shower's bath salt soak packs, which combine bath salts with fresh eucalyptus leaves for a sachet that can grace your shower, bathtub, or sink area. In your shower, you may want to try out the all-new shower steamers: small individually wrapped discs which release the classic eucalyptus aroma as you shower. The possibilities are endless!
No matter how you choose to utilize eucalyptus in your home, there are a couple of safety tips to keep in mind if you have children living in or frequently visiting your home.
1. Store eucalyptus essential oils and other products out of reach.
2. Be careful with dilution, especially if you are using eucalyptus as a topical application on yourself or older children. Always use the proper carrier oils and exercise caution.
3. Model and discuss safe usage habits with children in your home. Children mimic what they see, so make sure to discuss how you are keeping yourself and them safe as well as set a good example for them.
At Self-Care Shower, we strive to create a clean, safe, and natural experience for all customers. Visit our website today to learn more about our sustainable and U.S. grown products today!
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