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By Casey De Farria
Casey De Farria
10 May, 2021

Essential oil poisoning – natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe.

Essential oils are a popular go-to in many homes throughout Winter – they can be a soothing addition to humidifiers and diffusers when the sniffles hit. Sadly, they are the cause for many calls to the Poisons Hotline each year with children the most commonly affected.

In 2019 the Medical Journal of Australia shared a study, which found essential oil exposure was frequent and increasing by more than 5 percent each year (between 2014-2018), with 63 percent of cases occurring in children under 15 years of age.

On the back of these findings, the University of Sydney expressed concerns, flagging that there needed to be more public awareness on this issue. Dr Rose Cairns, Lecturer in the University of Sydney School of Pharmacy and Director of Research at the NSW Poisons Information Centre shared a particularly concerning fact – that as little as a little of 5 millilitres of some oils can cause a rapid and life-threatening onset of toxicity, particularly in children.

The study conducted by the Medical Journal of Australia between July 2014 and June 2018, found that most of the 4412 incidents over the study period, were the result of accidental exposures (80 percent), and that the essential oils most frequently involved in calls to the NSW Poisons Information Centre were;

  • eucalyptus (46.4 percent)
  • tea tree (17 percent)
  • lavender (6.1 percent)
  • clove (4.1 percent) and,
  • peppermint oils (3.5 percent)

Popping some eucalyptus oil into a humidifier overnight, to help relieve congestion, is considered a pretty common practice during the colder months – which is why these stats are scary.

When it comes to using essential oils with little one’s around, the key takeaway here is to do it as safely as possible – these products need to be stored out of reach of children at all times. It is also important to store them away from any oral medication so they are not mistaken for a product intended for consumption

We shared a visual last week that shows just why this mistake can be so easily made.

This Winter if you choose to use essential oils, do so with this in mind – natural products can be used for a variety of different uses, but don’t assume that because they are natural that they are safe. They can be extremely dangerous if not used the way that they are intended and should never be accessible to young children.

If you ever suspect your child has ingested essential oils, call the Poisons Information Centre urgently on 13 11 26

References

https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2020/212/3/essential-oil-exposures-australia-analysis-cases-reported-nsw-poisons

https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2019/12/09/essential-oil-poisoning-calls-on-the-rise-children-most-affected.html

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