Although essential oils are often used to improve health, they can cause allergic reactions. You are more likely to be allergic to an essential oil if you have a history of skin reactions to topical products or if you have atopic dermatitis.
These reactions can occur regardless of whether you use essential oils in a diffuser or topically, and can range from itching and sneezing to, in rare cases, something more serious.
Some people who use essential oils do not report this fact to their healthcare providers, perhaps because they do not see the connection between the oils and such symptoms. But remember: just because something is natural doesn't mean it can't have potential side effects.
Common allergies to essential oils
While you may experience an allergic reaction to any essential oil, some of the more common oils that cause allergies include :
Essential oils can be toxic if ingested or used incorrectly. Contact Poison Control at 800-222-1222 for information on whether to seek emergency help.
Types of allergic reactions
Allergic reactions to essential oils can occur if you rub them on your skin or breathe them in through the air. If you are allergic to essential oil, you may experience the following reactions.
The most common allergic reaction to essential oils is contact dermatitis . This usually happens when you apply pure oils or highly concentrated products to the skin.
Essential oil contact dermatitis can cause the following symptoms:
- Skin itch
- Dry and thickened skin
If you develop any of the above symptoms after using an essential oil, see your doctor. They can help reduce the causes of the reaction.
People with allergic rhinitis ( nasal allergies ), especially caused by weed pollen, should be careful when spreading essential oils. Essential oils are made from a variety of plant foods that can contain significant allergens, especially when using plant flowers.
If you are allergic to essential oils when sprinkled, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Itchy nose or eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Mucus in the throat of the nose
Sometimes essential oils can cause the above symptoms even if you are not allergic. The strong smell of oils can sometimes irritate the nasal passages. Your healthcare professional can help you determine if your symptoms are caused by allergies or irritation.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate emergency treatment. Although anaphylaxis is rare with allergies to essential oils, it has been reported .
Symptoms can start out mild and quickly progress to more serious problems. These symptoms include :
- Difficulty breathing
- Throat tightness
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and / or fainting
- Low blood pressure
- Fast heartbeat
- Feeling of doom
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition that can lead to cardiac arrest. Seek emergency help if you or a loved one has symptoms of anaphylaxis or a severe allergic reaction.
Be careful when using essential oils if you've had a rash due to odors or have symptoms of allergy to marijuana pollen.
If you want to continue using them, consult your doctor first. They can help you understand the likelihood of a reaction to certain oils based on your medical history and may recommend that you apply a patch to determine if you have an allergy.
To apply the patch, apply a small amount of diluted oil to the skin of the elbow (antecubital fossa) twice a day for three to five days. If on the fifth day or so there is no reaction at the oil application site, it is unlikely that you are allergic to the oil.
When applying an essential oil to your skin, be sure to dilute it with a base oil like sunflower oil or grapeseed oil. Due to the activity of pure essential oils, they are more likely to cause a bad skin reaction.
If you notice any allergy symptoms after using an essential oil, stop using it immediately and consult your doctor.
Remember also that many health and beauty products on store shelves contain essential oils. Be sure to check ingredient labels if you know you have allergies or sensitivities.