Please note that I am not a doctor, and therefore am not qualified to diagnose or treat your child's illness. I am a mom and oil user who is sharing her experience. Also note that there are two general philosophies about using oils with children- the "with caution" philosophy and the "never" philosophy. While I obviously subscribe to the "with caution" philosophy, please use this information as a platform for your own research, and share your experiences and knowledge below!
Cold and flu season is here, and despite my best efforts, it has hit our family hard! I have had many questions recently about using essential oils to prevent and treat illness in children, so below, I will outline my general protocol with my family.
First a note on purchasing oils and oil brands-- just like "mommy wars," there are "oil wars." Can't we all just get along? Currently in my home, I have five different brands of essential oils; some were gifted to me, some are for the proprietary blends I can't live without, but all I use. However, the brand that I purchase and distribute is Young Living. I have had the best overall success with these oils, they are of excellent quality, and I trust them on myself and my family. For more information about purchasing Young Living oils, click here. If you have any questions about ordering, please do not hesitate to ask! With the exception of the BreathAgain roll-on, all of the oils I will talk about below are part of the Premium Starter Kit, which if you are interested in becoming a wholesale member, is the best deal. (Remember, there is no requirement to sell -- which is good, because I haven't yet! -- you can just become a member for personal use of discounted oils!)
I cannot live without my Thieves oil. In fact, the first bout of sickness in my house came when I had run out! It has antiviral properties, so I apply topically to keep us healthy (especially when one of us gets sick or we've been around illness/large public places with children). The bottom of the feet is the best place to apply Thieves for this purpose. On adults, rub 2 drops of oil on the bottom of each foot. This can be a very strong blend and includes some "hot" oils, so I never apply neat to my children. Dilute in your carrier oil of choice (we use coconut oil) and rub into the bottom of their feet-- my kids love it! Baby foot massage. If we've already contracted an illness, I continue the same practice two times a day (when we wake up and before bed), to shorten the duration and severity of symptoms. Thieves can also be used to "clean up" after illness strikes. You can mix into your own cleaning solution or purchase Thieves cleaner for a natural way to rid your home of germs! Thieves hand sanitizer is also a permanent fixture in my purse!
To cleanse my environment and address illness, I diffuse oils in my home diffuser. My go-to blend is 2 drops of Thieves and 3 drops of Purification topped off with water. The antiviral properties in the Thieves and the purifying properties in the Purification help to disinfect the air around you. Because the respitory systems of little ones is not as developed and advanced as adults, you must exercise caution when diffusing oils around children. If my children are not present, I will use the constant mist function of my diffuser and let the oils do their job. I usually put it an open area of a big room to get the most effect for cleansing my environment. If I am treating symptoms, I start the diffuser on constant mist when I lay down to go to bed. It has an auto shut-off, so I'm usually asleep by the time it's through.
If children are awake or around, take caution, especially with the oils you are diffusing. Inhaling oils aromatically can still transfer large amounts of oils, relatively undiluted, into your system, so a child might receive a larger dose than you intended. I have diffused the blend mentioned above with my children around, but only in the largest space in my home, on the intermittent setting, and during a time when I can closely monitor them. However, I usually wait until they are asleep, and I never diffuse in their bedrooms at night
Peppermint can be a great oil for congestion, headaches, and low-grade fevers. In adults, you can inhale directly from the bottle or by rubbing in your hands and smelling to help congestion and fevers. You can also rub on your temples for headache or down your spine for fevers. I have not found evidence in the safety of prolonged inhalation, so I choose not to diffuse this oil. Peppermint has been recommended "not safe in children"-- I have read the youngest to be safe as 2 years old and the oldest as 6 years old! It can cause respitory distress and is a hot oil that can cause skin reactions. However, I have many trusted friends and colleagues as well as bloggers and oil experts who say that peppermint can be used with children. Here is where your own reasearch and comfort level will come in. I choose not to use peppermint on a child under 2 years old. When my 2 year old son had a fever that wouldn't break, I did rub a little bit in my palms and let him smell it, but I generally do not use it topically on children, and even aromatically is incredibly sparingly. Young Living offers pre-mixed and pre-diluted oil blends safe for children called "KidsScents," some of which include Peppermint Oil, implying that if you do use with children, dilute heavily!!
Lemon oil also has anti-viral and detoxifying properties. The many uses of Lemon oil is a topic for another blog, but adults can add 2 drops to a water bottle full of water to detox their system and reboot their immune system. When my children are congested and miserable, I dilute 1-2 drops of oil and apply to their chests. Lemon oil can be extremely irritating and cause burning, especially on sensitive baby skin, so make sure you dilute in a carrier oil. I usually use coconut oil as my CO of choice, but for the chest I have also used Honest brand Healing Balm to avoid oil-staining clothes. (If you accidently apply undiluted, remember not to use water-- that can make it worse! Instead, rub your carrier oil on top of the affected area to sooth.)
Breath Again is a favorite oil blend, and it comes in a convenient roll-on! Think of it as a portable and natural Vapo-rub. Adults can apply generously to neck and chest for congestion. Apply frequently-- I even bring it to work! For my children, I apply similarly as to how I apply Lemon oil. I roll the equivelant of 1-2 drops of oil in my palm and then use my finger to mix it with a carrier oil. I then apply to their chest. I usually do this before bed and naps to help with breathing while sleeping, but any time you notice extreme congestion, it can be helpful.
Often I will apply both my Lemon oil and my Breathe Again regiments to their chests, but it is important to remember that if you are applying more than one oil, you should do it one at a time allowing the first to be absorbed completly before applying the next. Do not mix oils yourself. Blends are created by trained experts based on research and the scientific chemical properties of the oils. Blending oils yourself can lead to uninteded consequences, reactions, and concentrations.
While not necessarily used to directly prevent or treat an illness, Lavender oil can be extremely useful for soothing children in times of illness so they can calm and get much needed rest. It is a general rule of thumb to always dilute oils when using on children; however, Lavender is extremely gentle, and I must admit that I have used it neat on my son. (For more information about safe topical use of oils, read Mommy Lives Clean's thoughts here.) Whether you choose to dilute it or use it neat, applying Lavender up and down the spine can produce an almost immediate calm. It can also be diluted and rubbed into the skin as lotion or added to a bath before bed to calm and sooth dry skin. (I have read that Lavender should be diluted in V-6 vegetable oil or olive oil before adding to the bath, but I have also added it directly. Either way, make sure there is no drinking of the bath water!) Lavender is also used for its healing properties on burns, abrasions, etc., so diluting it and applying it to fever blisters, chapped noses, or dry skin can also be very effective.
Well, there you have it-- my "essential oils medicine cabinet" for cold and flu season! I hope this helps your family prevent illness and find some relief when illness strikes. Do you have a favorite oil regiment your family uses? Please share in the comments below!