Even though many aromatherapists advocate the use of essential oils for babies and children under the age of five, unsupervised home use is potentially risky. Generally, it is fine to vaporize your child’s favorite essences around the home, and perhaps to put a few drops of decongestant oils on a handkerchief for him or her to sniff when they have a cold. But skin applications are another matter. Babies and young children have highly sensitive skin which is especially receptive to whatever is put on it, so it is inadvisable to apply aromatic oils regularly or to put essences in the bath for no better reason than for aesthetic purposes.
When treating older children, it is difficult to recommend standard quantities of essential oils according to age. Each child is an individual and does not necessarily develop at the so-called average rate. For example, while one ten year old may be the size of a small adult and tolerant of average quantities of essential oils, another may be very much smaller and consequently more sensitive to average quantities. Aromatherapists tend to play it by ear, generally advocating half the usual recommended amounts for children over five and under ten.
Some aromatherapists recommend essential oils for newborn babies, say, one drop Roman chamomile or lavender in 50 ml almond oil for massage, or a single drop of the same essences diluted in one tablespoonful of full-fat milk (or even breast milk) and added to the bath. Others, like myself, prefer to use tiny amounts of soothing and comforting oils in the vaporizer instead. Choose an electric vaporizer rather than a nightlight candle version, as these are safer for children’s bedrooms.
For babies under six months, I would suggest adding just one or two drops of neroli, Roman chamomile, rose Otto or lavender to the water-filled reservoir of the vaporizer. After this age, add an extra drop of essential oil if you wish. A baby’s sense of smell is especially acute; diffuse too much essential oil into the atmosphere — even a so-called relaxing essence like Roman chamomile — and your baby may become irritable and restless rather than happy and contented.
To protect against nappy rash, a generous covering of good old-fashioned zinc and castor oil cream at each nappy change is one of the best preparations available. However, if your baby actually develops nappy rash, try the proprietary calendula and hypericum ointment (usually labelled ‘hypercal’), which is available from most chemists and health shops. This gentle all-purpose cream is a marvelous treatment for most sore skin conditions.
With or without essential oils, massage is one of the finest treatments available for helping babies and children to feel happy and contented. In my own experience, it can also be of enormous benefit to hyperactive children, especially in conjunction with a diet free of artificial colorings and other chemical additives. As well as being a joy for both giver and recipient, massage has many physical benefits too. These include helping youngsters to grow stronger, encouraging deep sleep, better digestion and the relief of colic in infants.
Treating childhood Illnesses
Although there is growing concern in some quarters regarding jabs for diseases like mumps and measles (especially in children prone to allergies) it is beyond the scope of discussion here to put forward the arguments for and against vaccination. Suffice it to say, most childhood ailments are quite controllable and not at all serious if diet, hygiene and social conditions are adequate. It is a fact of life that the young are susceptible to all manner of germs and viruses. This is nature’s way of strengthening the immune system. Complications are only likely to arise if the child was in poor health in general before contracting the infection. Although some children are born healthier than others, there is still a great deal parents can do to help their children cultivate a strong immune system. This is achieved by a good wholefood diet, plenty of fresh air and exercise, adequate housing, and, above all, love. Sadly, many children in the world today (even in the so-called affluent West) are deprived of these basic requirements, so lasting health and happiness are bound to be in jeopardy.
Treatment for most illnesses is largely dietary with external applications of essential oils, including vaporization to prevent the spread of infection during epidemics.
If a child’s appetite has diminished, all well and good; a 24-hour semi-fast is the most appropriate treatment. During a fast, plenty of fresh water (preferably bottled spring water) should be taken as required until the appetite begins to return. A day or so on a diet of fresh fruit and fruit juice (preferably grape juice) diluted 50/50 with spring water should precede a gradual return to a wholefood diet.
Children over five years of age can benefit from skilful use of essential oils for a myriad of common ailments. Anything from coughs and colds to earache and chickenpox can be soothed with an aromatic remedy. Essences can be used in baths, inhalations, compresses, massage oils, creams or ointments in concentrations about half that recommended for adults.
IMPORTANT: I usually refer parents to a qualified homoeopath if a child is under the age of five years, or if the ailment is of a serious or chronic nature.
The ailments outlined on the therapeutic chart are those generally regarded as ‘children’s illnesses’ — though adults can also develop some of these if they escaped infection during childhood.
AROMATHERAPY FOR CHILDREN OVER 5 YEARS
Description: A mile fever which begins with the appearance of blisters on the chest and back, later spreading to the rest of the body and causing severe itching. Chickenpox is more serious in adults.
Possible causes: The herpes zoster virus.
Aggravated by: Scratching can lead to bacterial infection of the skin and the subsequent formation of scars.
Recommended Essential Oils: Chamomile (German and Roman), eucalyptus, lavender.
Methods of use: To help reduce itching: Luke-warm bath with charnomie essence, aromatic lotion.
To help prevent spread of infection: Vaporizer.
Further suggestions: During the feverish stage of the illness (usually the first day) keep your child in bed. Otherwise, there is no need for bed rest.
GERMAN MEASLES (RUBELLA)
Description: A much milder version of measles. Manifests as a feverish cold, with mild aches and pains and tender lymph nodes in the neck. The rash appears on the first or second day and lasts for about three days.
Possible causes:The rubella virus
Suggested Herbal Remedies: See Measles.
Recommended Essential Oils: See Measles.
Methods of use: See Measles.
Nutritional supplements: See Measles.
Aggravated by: Bright Light.
Further suggestions: If you are pregnant and have not had rubela but have been exposed to the disease, seek medical advice immediately. Rubella can be dangerous to unborn babies. Gamma globulin injections may be indicated. Alternatively, consult a homoeopath who may prescribe a homeopathic dose of rubella itself (called a nosode).
Description: Begins with loss of appetite and headache, followed by a feverish cold, sore throat and dry cough. The eyes become red and sensitive to light. The rash appears over the next few days, spreading downwards over the body.
Possible causes: The rubella virus.
Suggested Herbal Remedies: Garlic, lemon balm, peppermint.
Methods of use: Bath, vaporizer (to help prevent the spread of Nutritional supplements).
Nutritional supplements: For children over 2: one garlic capsule daily continuing for a week or two during the recovery period.
Recommended Essential Oils: Chamomile (German and Roman), eucalyptus, thyme (as a fumigant only).
Further suggestions: Put your child to bed in a dimly-lit but well-ventilated room. Seek medical advice as well.
MUMPS (EPIDEMIC PAROTITIS)
Description: Normally a raid childhood illness, but can be severe in adults, leading to sterility in men. Symptoms include painful swelling of the saliva!), glands on one or both sites of the face. In males, the testicles may also swell.
Aggravated by: Chewing is usually painful.
Suggested Herbal Remedies: Archangelica ointment (Weleda).
Suggested Herbal Remedies: Archangelica ointment (Weleda).
Recommended Essential Oils: Chamomile (German and Roman), lavender, lemon.
Methods of use: Warm compress of lavender or chamomile applied to the swollen cheeks.
For older children: Aromatic mouthwash with lemon essence.
Further suggestions: See rest and a fluid diet of fruit or vegetable juices and spring water if chewing is painful.