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Decorative scented oil candles a real hazard for children

Published: Friday, June 15 2012 6:38 p.m. MDT

SUGAR HOUSE — They can make homes smell like the holidays, with scents like pine trees or pumpkin pie. But those wonderful scented oils could put children at risk.

Joshua Egbert, a 21-month-old, knocked down an oil lamp that was on the coffee table June 8. His mother, Marisa Egbert, thought he had just pulled out the wick and didn’t realize he had swallowed some of the oil.

She took him to his crib for a timeout, but less than 30 seconds after he had knocked the lamp off the table, he started coughing. 

“I walked into his room put him in his crib and he started to cough,” she said. “It was a very deep laboring cough and it was constant. And then he started to cry. And I picked him up and now the coughing is just continuing.”

She called poison control and was advised to call 911 because the toddler needed to be rushed to the hospital immediately. Joshua spent the next week in the intensive care unit at Primary Children’s Medical Center.

Joshua was having trouble breathing because he had swallowed less than a teaspoon of oil. The scented oils, or hydro-carbons, were so light they spread across the surface of the lung, which then caused a chemical pneumonia.

“It happens very quickly," said Barbara Crouch, executive director of the Utah Poison Control. It doesn’t take a mouthful to cause problems. Just a few drops is enough with these types of liquids to cause a child to start coughing or choking, she said.

The bright colors, like the red coloring in Egbert’s lamps, is also a concern for health officials.

“We're making it more attractive to a child who can't read the label, doesn't really understand, but you know, ‘This looks like my fruit juice color,’” Crouch said.

Crouch warns parents to be very attentive and to keep items like scented oils out of reach of children.

Joshua came home Thursday night and is doing much better. His mother has since thrown away all the scented oils in the home.

“I had no idea that it would get him to the point he couldn’t breathe," she said.

Viviane Vo-Duc

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