Aromatherapy at Home: Keep Kids Healthy from Seasonal Cold and Flu

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Children's HealthIt’s cold and flu season. Keep your children healthy! When your child gets a cold or the flu, everybody’s miserable. You want to do something to help them, but what? Holistic health remedies, including aromatherapy, can be a great support!

You’ve probably read some of the many news stories about the dangers of children’s over-the counter cold and flu remedies. An FDA panel recommends using no cold medicines for children younger than 6, and to use caution with children even up to age 12.

Aromatherapy Tips from Registered Aromatherapist Deborah Halvorson

Deborah Halvorson, BA, Dip Aroma, RA, and Instructor at American College of Healthcare Sciences, has some aromatherapy suggestions for concerned parents and caregivers.

“I’ve never used over-the-counter cold remedies with my kids, just herbs and essential oils, and when the colds start going around, my kids generally get over it much quicker than their friends and classmates,” Deborah says.

One of her favorite cough remedies is vapor balm, a natural alternative to vaporub (adapted from a recipe in Kathy Keville/Mindy Green’s Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art):

Vapor Balm

  • Olive oil: 1 cup
  • Beeswax: 3⁄4 ounce
  • Eucalyptus (E. smithii ) essential oil: 1 1⁄2 teaspoon
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) essential oil: 1 teaspoon
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool) essential oil: 1⁄4 teaspoon

Directions: Melt beeswax and olive oil in top of double boiler. Allow to cool a bit and add
essential oils. Pour into clean containers, label and date. To use, rub a small
amount on the child’s chest.

“When my child wakes up coughing in the middle of the night, I rub the vapor balm on his/her chest; the coughing stops almost immediately and the child (and mom) are able to get back to sleep,” Deborah says.

For children 2-10 years old, use Eucalyptus smithii and Thyme linalool; for older children and adults, E. globulus or E. radiata and Thyme ct. thymol can be used. For children ages 12 months to 2 years, the above recipe can adapted using only the Eucalyptus smithii and leaving out the peppermint and thyme oils.

A combination of lemon (Citrus limonum) and marjoram (Origanum marjorana) essential oils is helpful if the child has a cold/flu with a fever. Lemon will help reduce the fever, and marjoram is great for respiratory infections and will help the child sleep. Blend 10 drops of lemon with 5 drops marjoram and use 1 drop of the blend in a warm bath before bedtime or nap time, or use the blend in a nebulizing diffuser.

Steam inhalation is a very effective way to administer essential oils if there is nasal congestion or sinus infection. For children older than 5, use 3-5 drops of essential oil to 6 cups of water. Boil the water and pour into a bowl, and then add the essential oils. Have the child inhale the steam, being sure to keep their eyes closed and their face 8-12 inches from the bowl. For children younger than 5, rather than having them directly inhale the steam, place the bowl in the same room as the child, and they will receive the benefits of the essential oils being dispersed into the air via the steam.

Essential oils that are effective and safe for children include:

  • Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica): expectorant, strengthens the immune system, has a calming/sedative action
  • Frankincense (Boswellia carteri): immune system stimulant, helps with cough and bronchial congestion
  • Manuka/New Zealand Tea Tree (Leptospermum scoparium): effective for bronchial congestion/bronchitis, sinus congestion/sinusitis, and has been shown to inhibit the growth of streptococcus (bacteria that cause strep throat) as well as bacteria that cause pneumonia
  • Marjoram (Origanum majorana): expectorant, helpful for respiratory infections and sinusitis, has a calming action
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): useful for respiratory infections and sinusitis (can be stimulating; do not use before bedtime)
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita): useful for sinusitis and bronchitis (*should not be used with children younger than 2 years old)

A room spray can also be used, and will not only benefit the sick child, but help stop the spread of germs and keep other family members from catching the cold/flu. Here’s a sample recipe:

  • Distilled water: 4 ounces
  • Manuka/New Zealand Tea Tree (Leptospermum scoparium): 10 drops
  • Lemon (Citrus limonum): 10 drops
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): 5 drops
  • Marjoram (Origanum majorana): 5 drops
  • Frankincense (Boswelia carterii): 3 drops

Pour into a 4-ounce glass spray bottle. Shake well before spraying. Can be sprayed into the air or onto doorknobs or bathroom surfaces. Do not spray directly onto wood or plastic surfaces.

Do you have a go-to aromatherapy essential oil for cold and flu? We’d love to share recipes! Leave a comment with your best tips for keeping kids healthy from seasonal cold and flu with aromatherapy.

Note, this information has not been reviewed by the FDA. This information has been presented for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.

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