Children's Increasing Risk Of Essential Oil Injury

I love the book Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. It has plenty of stats mixed with powerful stories of survival that give sobering lessons about how our brains respond to fear, risk, and danger. One of the points the author proved is that people who have a lot of experience with something tend to miss the warning signs a novice will notice immediately. The rafter who has a respect for the wild river rapids they’ve guided on a thousand times is the one who decides to go when others decide to stay. It’s the climber whose scaled the wall a dozen times who climbs the afternoon lightning is predicted.

Often, it’s the expert that dies in a survival situation and the novice who survives. Why?

Even if you think you have a respect for essential oils, your continued incident-free usage is likely to cultivate a more casual, familiar attitude.

And the people most likely to be put at risk as a result are children.

This chart from the Tisserand Institute shows essential oil adverse incidents reported to poison centers in the USA between 1995-2015. Notice the incline in child incidents.[1]

Most incidents for small children are caused by accidental ingestion which is easily preventable with proper monitoring during use and proper storage.[2] Children as young as two have been reported to remove bottle caps and drink bottle contents even when an orifice reducer was present.

My advice?

  • Do not leave unattended bottles of essential oils within reach of children.
  • Store essential oils out of children’s reach.
  • Limit the exposure of young children to essential oils including strong essential oil vapors (use common sense and don’t pique the interest/awareness of very small children by letting them ‘smell’ bottles of oils).
  • When children are present, do not blend essential oils at a table height corresponding to the child’s height.
  • Keep orifice reducer/restricted flow caps on all essential oil bottles.
  • After suspected ingestion of an essential oil, asymptomatic children should be closely observed for six hours; drinking water is encouraged.

If you believe urgent care is needed, call your local poison center or seek emergent medical attention. see the download for children’s first aid including ingestion first aid and the emergency telephone numbers to call if ingestion has taken place.

[1] Figure from the Tisserand Institute: “Figure 1 shows the number of adverse incidents from essential oils that were reported to poison centers in the USA 1995-2015. Most of these were not serious, and most were accidental, but they show a worrying upward trend for children under 6, compared with older children or adults.”

[2] Tisserand Institute Safety Pages


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