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Med J Aust. 1995 Aug 21;163(4):177-80.

Clinical effects and management of eucalyptus oil ingestion in infants and young children.

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Intensive Care Unit, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, VIC.



To determine the symptoms and signs of eucalyptus oil poisoning in infants and young children, to estimate the toxic dose and to recommend management strategies.


Retrospective analysis of case histories of children admitted to the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, between 1 January 1981 and 31 December 1992 with a diagnosis of eucalyptus oil poisoning.


Demographic data, circumstances of ingestion, doses, clinical effects, management, complications and duration of hospital stay.


109 children (mean age, 23.5 months; range, 0.5-107) were admitted; clinical effects were observed in 59%. Thirty-one (28%) had depression of conscious state; 27 were drowsy, three were unconscious after ingesting known or estimated volumes of between 5 mL and 10 mL, and one was unconscious with hypoventilation after ingesting an estimated 75 mL. Vomiting occurred in 37%, ataxia in 15% and pulmonary disease in 11%. No treatment was given for 12%. Ipecac or oral activated charcoal was given for 21%, nasogastric charcoal for 57%, and gastric lavage without anaesthesia for 4% and under anaesthesia for 6%. All patients recovered. Hazardous treatment and overtreatment were common. For 105 children, mean hospital stay was 22 hours (range, 4-72 h) and for 13 patients mean intensive care unit stay was 18 hours (range, 4-29 h). In 27 patients who ingested known doses of eucalyptus oil, 10 had nil effects after a mean of 1.7 mL, 11 had minor poisoning after a mean of 2.0 mL, five had moderate poisoning after a mean of 2.5 mL and one had major poisoning after 7.5 mL (P = 0.0198).


Ingestion of eucalyptus oil caused significant morbidity in infants and young children. Significant depression of conscious state should be anticipated after ingestion of 5 mL or more of 100% oil. Minor depression of consciousness may occur after 2-3 mL. Airway protection should precede gastric lavage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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