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Paediatr Child Health. 2001 Feb;6(2):80-3.

Unintentional exposure of young children to camphor and eucalyptus oils.

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Ontario Regional Poison Information Centre and.



Essential oils, such as camphorated and eucalyptus oils, are volatile oils that can be absorbed by mouth and through the skin; if ingested orally by children, they can be harmful, even life-threatening.


To determine the frequency of essential oil ingestion among children in Toronto, Ontario.


Charts from December 1995 through March 1997 at the Ontario Regional Poison Information Centre, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto were reviewed to collect information on calls about essential oil ingestion, and a search of MEDLINE articles from 1966 to 1998 was conducted using the key words: 'camphor', 'eucalyptus', 'paediatric', and 'poisoning'.


Callers to the Poison Information Centre reported that 251 children had ingested an essential oil or product: eucalyptus oil 50 children; camphorated oil 18 children; VapAir (Drug Trading, Canada) vaporizing liquid 93 children; and Vicks VaporRub (Procter & Gamble, Canada) 90 children. The most common symptoms were cough, vomiting and cough associated with vomiting. Two children had seizures but recovered. The MEDLINE search found 18 reports of paediatric ingestion of the oils or oil products. The main symptoms were vomiting, lethargy, coma and seizures. One child died.


Although widely used by health care consumers, essential oils and the products that contain them can be harmful when ingested by children. Further education for parents and other caregivers about the risks involved in exposure to these products is required.


Camphor; Eucalyptus; Paediatric; Poisoning


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