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Reed Diffusers: Potential Household Risk

Reed diffusers are liquid air fresheners in a narrow-necked bottle with long “sticks” inserted in to the liquid. These sticks, or reeds, absorb scented liquid from the container and release fragrance into the surrounding air.  Many scents are available. Manufacturers range from widely-known consumer brands to small boutique producers. There are also recipes on the web for making your own air fresheners for use in reed diffusers.

The opening at the top is narrow, but not too narrow for a child to take a swig or spill the contents. Ingredients vary, but two common ingredients can be dangerous to a child who swallows them.

Some reed diffuser fragrances contain up to 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. This is the same thing as rubbing alcohol. Swallowing this can cause vomiting and make a child extremely drowsy.

Essential oils (e.g. lavender oil, eucalyptus oil) are also common ingredients. Swallowing these can cause drowsiness, tremors or seizures, stomach upset, and mouth irritation. Home recipes for diffuser fragrances may call for the same ingredients.

Isopropyl alcohol and essential oils can also cause skin and eye irritation. Of course, there is a danger that the long slender sticks could cause injury, too.

If you use air fresheners, they must be in some sort of sealed container so that children can’t eat or drink them. If someone swallows air freshener, call the Poison Center right away at . If air fresheners spill on the skin, rinse with running water right away. If they splash in the eyes, rinse with running water for at least fifteen minutes. In either case, call the Poison Center.

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Fall 2010, The Poison Post