They are a common item found in many homes. However, according to one of NSW’s top poison experts, they are so dangerous they shouldn’t even be kept in a home with children.
Essential oils are used by people for everything from making a home smell nice to medicinal purposes. But they also resulted in nearly 600 calls to the state last year alone poisons hotline for children under 15 years old.
In fact, essential oils jumped in the top 10 of calls from the NSW Poisons Information Center regarding children under 15 for the first time last year, in a move that has alarmed experts.
According to information provided to: 9Honey Parentingessential oils ranked ninth on the list with 590 calls, leading to a plea from a top poisoning expert to either keep them locked up or not have them in the house at all with young children.
The NSW Poisons Information Center is located in Sydney’s Westmead Hospital† It operates 24 hours a day and is staffed by health professionals who provide toxicology advice to the general public and medical personnel who treat poisoning patients in hospitals.
In the past year alone, calls to the hotline have increased by 6 percent, from 113,094 in 2020 to 120,090 in 2021.
Genevieve Adamo, senior poison specialist for the NSW Poisons Information Line, said calls to the hotline have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic.
One of the biggest concerns for Ms. Adamo is essential oils.
“I think there’s a real misconception that essential oils are natural and therefore safe, but only three to five milliliters in a child will cause serious poisoning,” she said.
“So I’m incredibly concerned that there are people with small children in the house using them and even small children.
“We’ve had reports of people putting it into their cooking.
“They can burn them, but I’ll say if you want the house to smell nice, use air freshener.
“I would be much happier if I got a call about a child who had gotten into the air freshener than a child who had been given essential oils.”
Ms Adamo said there had been cases where children had experienced “significant inebriation” from essential oils.
She said one of the most common calls involved eucalyptus oil, in part because it sometimes came in larger bottles.
She said those bottles without a dropper were special… dangerous because there was “potential to ingest large amounts.”
She also warned against keeping them in the same cupboard as cold and flu medicines.
“We’ve had cases where a child was given a dose instead of a cough medicine,” she said.
Ms. Adamo said that while there was some evidence that tea tree oil had antiseptic properties, most essential oils had no proven benefits.
As such, she would prefer they not be kept in homes with children.
However, if people insist on having them, they should be kept high up, preferably in a locked cabinet and not with medicine.
“Ideally, you should have two locked cabinets: one in the kitchen and one in the laundry room,” she said.
“The one in the laundry is where you hold up all kinds of cleaning products.
“If you have things like essential oils, they should be kept in the cleaning closet so that no mistakes can be made with dosing.”
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