Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about essential oils and the fact that they are not benign. The main message was that essential oils and supplements are powerful and you should think before you ingest anything and you shouldn’t slather oils all over your new born baby. Back then I didn’t use essential oils at all in my home and I saw a huge amount of direct to consumer selling going on that I felt was somewhat ill informed/undereducated for the claims they were making. I was being judgey, yes, I admit it.
Personally, I’m pretty sensitive to smells and had had some experiences of headaches when exposed to multiple oils, so I wasn’t all that drawn to use them. However, when a close friend started using essentials more, and my babies were bigger, I started to dabble. Over the course of the last year or so I’ve put a diffuser in each of my kid’s rooms. We used lavender and tea tree oil to prevent the recurrence of lice that was going around my daughter’s first grade class. I didn’t necessarily open the flood gates to let them “play with oils” but I did not apparently caution them about the strength of oils enough.
Several weeks ago my daughter had her 7thbirthday. All she wanted was another furry little critter that she could snuggle. While I had slight trepidation about another pet in our home, the lessons learned and the entertainment provided by a soft warm living thing far outweighed the alternative of overpriced squishy plastic that she also loves. I found a cute little hamster on Craigslist that needed a new home and we drove south to go get him the day after her birthday. She was ecstatic. She named him Bob and he was immediately the apple of her eye.
Four days after getting him, she was in her room playing and I was trying to catch up on some work emails and random other mom duties. I smelled tea tree oil and I asked her what she was doing. She said she was cleaning her room and put tea tree in her diffuser. It was lunch time and I made her a bowl of yogurt and granola and called her to the table. She came to sit down without any sign of distress and calmly told me in her sweet seven-year-old voice: “Mom, Bob isn’t moving and he’s just laying there.” I PANICKED. I went tearing through the house back to her room and picked up the (what absolutely appeared to be dead) hamster. I ran him under water in the bathroom sink and he jerked and moved, so I was hopeful. I then ran him to the kitchen sink and squirted some dawn on him and shampooed the little man like crazy. Warm water, dawn, cool water, dawn. I texted my oils friend and she said use oil (coconut or olive or whatever) and clean him with that. I worked oil into the mix of water, dawn, water, oil, dawn, water, oil, dawn, warm water, cool water… and so it went. An hour or so into my efforts, I posted an ask on social media if anyone knew anything else I could do. I was desperate, but from what I could tell he was trying his best to hang in there for me and not be the hamster that was accidentally killed four days after he arrived here. My daughter told me she thought the tea tree would make his cage smell better and hadn’t meant to douse him in it. She was devastated, but happy when she’d see him move.
To make a LONG story shorter, Bob survived. He’s rocking it as a great little pet and seems to have no ill effects a few weeks out, but he easily could have died. I’m sharing this story because I think it might resonate with other kids as a way to teach them that, while essential oils come in nice little bottles that don’t have child proof caps, they are potent! Please talk to your kids about the safety and dangers of all over the counter supplements including essential oils! Let’s keep the Bobs of the world alive!