British model Emily Smith has issued a warning to people who many not know the potential dangers of essential oil diffusers after a seemingly harmless accident led to severe chemical burns to her face and eyes.
Essential oil diffusers are praised by followers of natural health for their zen-inducing vapours. And while it's claimed they inspire a gentle atmosphere inside the home, not all essential oils are gentle on the skin - as Smith unfortunately discovered.
Smith had been hoping for a relaxing night in after she’d been spending weeks caring for her boyfriend who had an accident that put him in a wheelchair. With the fire crackling away, a film on the telly and a diffuser emitting patchouli oil, Smith was enjoying a calm evening.
"As I write this post through blurred eyes, I realise how I thought I was safe at home. Little did I know that the dangers were right in front of me, masquerading as apparatus to make you feel more ‘relaxed’," the 24-year-old model wrote in a Facebook post outlining her ordeal.
Smith went on to explain, when she turned off the diffuser a puff of vapour sprayed into her face, but she didn’t think anything of it.
Smith wrote: "Whilst I was somewhat aware of the danger of getting essential oils directly on my skin, I was unaware that the vaporised ‘diluted’ oil from my diffusers could also be dangerous."
A few hours later, Smith said the fire was waning, so she got up and put a log on it.
"Immediately, I felt a stinging sensation on my face but due to the fact that my body never came into direct contact with the flames, combined with my ignorance about the nature and danger of the oils my skin had come into contact with, I didn’t put two and two together," she explained.
"The burning sensation increased, and I realised that I had been burned."
"I ran my face under a tap for ten minutes, then soaked it in cold water for twenty minutes whilst I rang for medical guidance."
Smith was told that she had most likely experienced first degree burns and that she did not need further medical attention.
However, the next morning, after a painful night, Smith’s burns had worsened.
"I looked into the mirror and didn’t recognise myself. My face had swollen, my eyes were blurred and continually watering and my skin looked pus-y," Smith wrote.
"My face and eyes burned and I was unsure whether this transition was normal for a burn. By the time I spoke to the health advisers, my face looked considerably worse, and I was in more pain. I was told that as my condition had worsened and to attend the emergency room."
After a long stint at the hospital, Smith was diagnosed with chemical burns.
"Whilst I treated my 'burn' symptoms correctly, had I been aware about the true dangers of these oils coming into contact with my skin even through water vapor from the diffuser, I would have sought medical treatment immediately and my face would not have continued to burn," she said.
Smith said she had no idea about the dangers of essential oil diffusers:
"When I followed the instructions given by medical professionals and ran my burns under the tap, I was not removing the oil. Oil does not just ‘wash’ off. When I soaked my face in a bowl of water, I was not really relieving my burn. I was marinating my face in the cause of my troubles."
Smith concluded: "In the past month I turned 24 and got engaged. My face and eyes were chemically burned. I’m extremely fortunate to have my sight at all, and lucky that the burn wasn’t worse, but I have suffered permanent eye damage and am potentially facially scarred for life."
"A life changing incident, that was preventable."