The Two Most Important Things To Know About Essential Oil First Aid

Here’s the two most important things you need to know about essential oils first aid:

  1. There are two types of adverse reactions that are possible. 

One is proportionate to *improper* oil use. 

The other type of reaction is an allergic reaction and can grow completely disproportionate to the oil use. It can be really scary to have a reaction ‘spread’ and can also be very confusing because many times this leads people to believe it’s not an oils reaction.

In case you want to know the scientific names of these reactions here they are:

The Two Types of Skin Reactions to Essential Oils

  1. Irritant Contact Dermatitis
  2. Allergic Contact Dermatitis
  • (Immediate Allergic Contact Dermatitis) Class I allergic reaction
  • (Delayed Allergic Contact Dermatitis) Class IV allergic reaction
  1. The second most important thing for you to know is that the adverse reaction will respond differently to first aid depending on what type it is.

So, you may need to know what type it is.

The full explanation of these reactions is in the download at the end of this post, but here’s a brief overview of how you’d tell the difference:

Distinguishing Features of Reaction Type

Irritation Contact Dermatitis

Immediate Allergic Contact Dermatitis (Type I) Reaction

Appears after first exposure

Sensitization necessary before the reaction occurs

Rash limited to area of contact


Inflammation may spread to parts of the body other than area of contact

Decrescendo phenomenon – reaches a rapid peak and starts to resolve

Crescendo phenomenon – keeps worsening and resolves more slowly

Responds directly to first-aid measures

May not respond to first-aid measures

The nature and extent of the reaction depends on the dose of the essential oil (volume, dilution, duration of exposure)

The nature and extent of the reaction can grow disproportionate to dose of essential oil


Once an allergic reaction begins it cannot be stopped by topical first aid measures, still, any essential oil residue on the skin should be removed.

One thing to note: Laboring mothers may ask their care provider about taking an oral antihistamine when appropriate in the absence of contraindications if they experience severe symptoms. Some doctors and midwives advise the use of Benadryl to encourage rest in labor even in the absence of an allergic reaction. Full instructions on first aid measures for both types of reactions are in the download at the end of this article. Please download and share!

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