Tea tree oil is a homeopathic treatment with antiseptic properties used topically for burns, cuts, diaper rash and fungal infections. Both adults and children can benefit from the use of tea tree oil, however, parents should be aware of possible side effects before using it on an infant. Swallowing tea tree oil is not recommended, according to Mayo Clinic; it can cause nerve damage or toxicity. Dilute tea tree oil before topical use on infants.
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When used as a topical treatment, tea tree oil can cause skin rashes, inflammation and redness that is often the result of an allergic reaction. While tea tree oil is often used as a diaper rash solution, infants with sensitive skin are more susceptible to skin rashes and may not benefit from tea tree oil. Infants with a prior skin disorder such as eczema may experience a more serious rash or reaction. Discontinue use if a skin rash or redness occurs.
According to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), products made with tea tree oil and lavender oil may cause prepubertal gynecomastia. Prepubertal gynecomastia is an extremely rare condition resulting in enlarged breast tissue in prepubescent boys. While the study found a link between the oils and prepubertal gynecomastia, researchers are unaware of how strong the connection may be. Discontinuation of products containing tea tree oil reduced the effects the oil had on the boys. Researchers do not know if the oils affect girls or adults.
The Mayo Clinic reports that those who with an allergy to tea tree oil ranging from slight contact dermatitis to extreme blistering should discontinue use of the oil. While often used as treatment for allergic reactions, the extreme potency of tea tree oil can cause burning, itching, skin discoloration and digestive problems when used as a topical treatment. Parents should be aware of possible allergies and discontinue use of tea tree oil on an infant if a reaction occurs.