Tea tree oil contains antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and immunity-stimulant properties (1). It is derived from the leaves of tea tree.The oil is also said to have healing properties of anecdotal origin. You may find tea tree oil in many over-the-counter products, but is it safe for kids?
The safety of tea tree oil cannot be confirmed because the US Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the use of sale of essential oils (2). However, a doctor can guide you on the use of tea tree oil for your child because when used in moderation, tea tree oil could be safe for children.
This MomJunction post provides you the relevant information about the use of tea tree oil for children and the possible side effects.
Tea Tree Oil For Children: Safety Aspects To Consider
- Make sure the brand you are choosing is known for its Check the labels for ingredients, and prefer the ones made from organic sources.
- The American College of Healthcare Sciences suggests diluting the oil when using it for children (3). For instance, you can blend three to five drops of tea tree oil with an ounce (30ml) of carrier oil such as jojoba, argan, almond, coconut, and avocado.
- Perform a patch test before using it. Apply the oil on a tiny patch of skin to observe the skin’s response. If the child has any allergies or they are too sensitive, then it is better to avoid the oil.
- As per a report by the University of Maryland, tea tree oil might cause detrimental health effects on oral use (4).
If you decide to use tea tree oil after conforming to the safety considerations, then it is good to know about the likely uses and limitations of the oil.
Possible Uses Of Tea Tree Oil For Children
The topical use of tea tree oil for children may provide relief in the following ways.
- According to the American College of Healthcare Sciences, tea tree oil is safe and can be useful for children for sinus infection, nasal congestion, and bronchitis (5). Children above five years of age can inhale steam from water that has a few drops of tea tree oil (three to five drops for around six cups of water). For children below five years of age, leave a bowl of water in the child’s room so that the tea tree oil-mixed steam can spread into the ambient air.
- According to a study, tea tree oil, when used in mouthwashes, resulted in a decrease of gingivitis and plaque in the oral cavity of children as well as prevented tooth decay (6).
- Tea tree oil contains antiseptic properties, and it is used to for cuts, bites, and wounds(7). Basically, it reduces inflammation and potentiates the effect of white blood cells, which improves healing of wounds.
- A University of Michigan report states that tea tree oil can be a home remedy for fungal nail infection(8). Fungal nail infections generally take a long time to heal, and tea oil can help expediate the process. But there is no reference to its use in children.
- A research study has found that “The cumulative acaricidal, antibacterial, antipruritic, anti-inflammatory, and wound healing effects of TTO may have the potential to successfully reduce the burden of scabies infection and the associated bacterial complications.”(9)
- Some parents add a few drops of tea tree oil in the hair oil of children to address head lice and reduce dandruff. But its effectiveness is not known.
- Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition and causes red, itchy skin. It is a chronic condition. Tea tree oil, due to anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce the symptoms.
Skin inflammation due to diaper rash, contact dermatitis or insect bites can also be relieved by applying tea tree oil.
Remember, tea tree oil is not a medicine and not a replacement for a doctor’s advice. Essential oils may work for some children, while some might have side effects.
Possible Side Effects Of Tea Tree Oil For Children
The chief side effects are irritation, allergy, burning and redness of skin. Tea tree oil can be toxic if ingested and should be kept out of reach of children. Some of the likely side effects of tea tree oil are:
- A study has found a link between the use of product (that included tea tree oil and lavender oil) and abnormal growth (prepubertal gynecomastia) of the breast in young boys (10). In one case, the swelling came back to normal once the boy stopped using the product. However, there is a difference of opinion on this and further research is needed to know the exact effects of tea tree oil on abnormal breat growth.
- There have been reports of allergic contact dermatitis with the use of tea tree oil (11). You may have to be extra cautious when using it for children who have sensitive skin.
- Children have immature livers and thin skin, and they can be more susceptible than adults to the toxic effects of essential oils (12).
- There is limited research data on the toxicity of tea tree oil. However, its excessive use on a child’s skin might be harmful.
Other Gentle Essential Oils For Children
Some gentle essential oils include lavender, blue cypress, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, neroli, and spearmint. However, even the safest oils known could have individual responses (3). So make a careful decision.
Tea tree oil might be beneficial to some children for certain conditions as long as it is used in moderation and in the right way. Unless it is swallowed, there are no significant concerns regarding its use (if topical). You may also choose not to use any essential oils at all. Talk to your child’s pediatrician and take an informed decision.
Have you used tea tree oil for your children? Let us know in the comment section below.
2. M. Patrick,A Doctor’s Take on Essential Oils; Nationwide children’s (2015)
3. M. Green,Herbal and Essential Oil Remedies For Children; American College of Healthcare Sciences (2017)4. Essential Oils; Poison Prevention Press; Maryland Poison Center (2014)
5. It’s Cold & Flu Season – Keep Your Children Healthy; American College of Healthcare Sciences
6. N. P. Kamath et al.,The effect of aloe vera and tea tree oil mouthwashes on the oral health of school children; European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry (2019)
7. R. M. Labib et al.,Appraisal on the wound healing potential of Melaleuca alternifolia and Rosmarinus officinalis L. Essential oil-loaded chitosan topical preparations; plos.org (2019)
8. Fungal Nail Infection, University of Michigan
9. J. Thomas et al.,Therapeutic Potential of Tea Tree Oil for Scabies; The American Journal Of Tropical Medicine And Hygiene (2016)
10. Chemicals in lavender and tea tree oil appear to be hormone disruptors; Endocrine Society (2018)
11. Allergic contact dermatitis from tea tree oil; Thomas Jefferson University (2007)
12. Essential Oils: Poisonous When Misused; National Capital Poison Center