A new study by the University of Sydney has found that close to 63% of essential oil poisoning cases at the New South Wales (NSW) Poisons Information Centre comes from children under 15 years of age.
According to the study, a majority of these kids would accidentally ingest the essential oils thinking it was medicine.
This has prompted Australian researches to give a public warning on the dangers of ingesting essential oils, especially for young children and how to keep them away from accidental ingestion.
Dangers of ingesting essential oils
The study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that while ingesting a small amount of essential oils may come recommended by some suppliers, young children should never be encouraged to do so.
Dr Rose Cairns, Director of Research at the NSW Poisons Information Centre said, “It’s worrying as particularly in children, as a little of 5 millilitres of some oils can cause rapid and life-threatening onset of toxicity.”
Clinical effects of ingesting essential oils in children include vomiting, central nervous system depression or excitation, and aspiration pneumonitis.
The study also found that a small number of respondents also intentionally ingested essential oils thinking it would have therapeutic benefits.
But Dr Cairns cautioned that “just because something is natural doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe”.
In order to keep children safe, parents ought to keep essential oils out of reach of children and separate from oral medications so that mix-ups do not occur.
“Many of these products don’t come with child-resistant closures and flow restrictors, which I would like to see made mandatory,” commented Dr Cairns.
Essential oils in Singapore
Essential oils are aromatic and volatile liquids that are extracted from plant material by steam distillation and named according to the plants from which they are derived, such as lavender or eucalyptus.
They are often readily available in pharmacies, supermarkets, health food stores and widely marketed and sold online.
In Singapore, these oils have slowly picked up interest from parents for its organic and soothing qualities. Mother of three, Mrs Ratna Mishra is one of many parents who has been impressed by the advantages of essential oils.
In an interview with The Straits Times, the homemaker said she had more than 100 different types of oils at home to use on her three children – but she only applies it on her children’s skins.
So far, there have been no reports on essential oils ingestion in Singapore.
Essential oils are not safe for ingestion
Some essential oil companies have started their own dietary essential oil line of products, however, co-author Dr Joanna Harnett said that very few studies have evaluated the efficacy and safety of ingesting specific essential oils.
“The majority of essential oils are not considered safe for ingestion,” she added.
So parents, if you do use essential oils on your children, ensure that you are only applying it on their skin and not letting them consume it.
Do also label your essential oils and keep them away from younger ones.