As a preschool teacher, I can understand why someone would want to use essential oils in the classroom. I mean, after all… they’re amazing for all kinds of things! They’re perfect for cleaning, sanitizing, and improving the overall mood of the classroom. Few people have stopped to think about the negative effects they may have on some children. Every child in this world is unique from head-to-toe, inside and out. Some kids have severe health issues that would limit the use of essential oils drastically while others would be fine with most essential oils.
In 2009, 1 in 12 adults (about 8% of the US population) and 1 in 10 children (about 10% of the population) were diagnosed with asthma. In 2010, 3,404 deaths were linked to asthma. (American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, n.d.) Let these statistics sink in for a minute or two. While not all asthma attacks are preventable, some of them are. People with asthma are sensitive to different things, including odors, and those sensitivities can trigger an asthma attack. Not all sensitivities are known, either. People can develop new sensitivities every day. As we all can agree, essential oils are powerful, highly concentrated molecules that can throw off a very strong and powerful aroma. These powerful aromas are often strong enough to evoke an asthma attack. Now that you know the statistics, is it worth risking an asthma attack in the classroom? Is it worth risking an asthma attack with other people’s children? In my opinion, it’s an unnecessary risk.
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), approximately 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some sort of autoimmune disease. This is approximately 20% of the total U.S. population. (American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc., n.d.) Per the AARDA, autoimmune disease is one of the top ten causes of death in female children. (American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc., n.d.) Before we dig deeper, lets talk about what an autoimmune disease really is. By definition, an autoimmune disease is a disease that causes your immune system to mistakenly attack healthy cells in your body. They can affect almost every part of the body, including the brain, heart, nervous system, and more. There are many different autoimmune disorders, some common and some are quite rare. Some examples of known autoimmune disorders and diseases include psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Graves’ disease, type 1 diabetes, and autoimmune hepatitis. There are many other autoimmune disorders and diseases not listed. While there is little research on the matter, it is often recommended that people who suffer from autoimmune diseases avoid immune system stimulants. This would include avoiding essential oils such as rosalina (melaleuca ericfolia) and palmarosa (cymbopogon martini var motia), both of which are common oils used with children. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Well, you said there wasn’t much research, so how can you prove this is really a concern?” Well… again… is it worth the risk? I’d say not.
The last big issue we’re going to talk about is general allergies. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, in 2012 7.8 million (10.6%) of children were reported to have respiratory allergies. Also in 2012, 4.1 million (5.6%) of children had reported food allergies. (American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, n.d.) “What do food and/or respiratory allergies have to do with essential oils?” If a child is allergic to say, oranges, do you think it’d be safe for them to inhale orange essential oil? Nope, not likely.
Wow. So that was a lot of numbers, information, and brain power. But has it stimulated your thought process on the worthiness of classroom essential oil use? Please don’t get me wrong. I love essential oils. I believe essential oils are amazing compounds capable of amazing things. I also believe essential oils should be treated with respect, just like medicine. I’m not shutting down the whole idea of essential oils in the classroom, I’m just asking that you think about what would be necessary for you, the teacher, to do before doing so. It would require collaborating with parents, other faculty members, and perhaps maybe a medical professional or two (perhaps three, four, or five). It would require you to know a great chunk of each child’s medical history. After all, you don’t want to put a child in danger, right? So, I ask you one final time. Is it worth the risk?
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (n.d.). Allergy Statistics. Retrieved from American
Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: http://www.aaaai.org/about-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (n.d.). Asthma Statistics. Retrieved from American
Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: http://www.aaaai.org/about-aaaai/newsroom/asthma-statistics
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (n.d.). Autoimmune Statistics. Retrieved from
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association: https://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/autoimmune-statistics/
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (n.d.). Question and Answers. Retrieved from
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association: http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/questions-and-answers/