Parents: I Learned Just How Dangerous Baby Oil Can Be the Hard Way

JennaJoy Ingraham

JennaJoy Ingraham

As told to Lauren Levy by JennaJoy Ingraham

OK, all of my mama friends and anyone taking care of sweet little babes: Our family learned a scary lesson yesterday and I feel like more people should know what we didn’t -- involving something so many people have laying around their household.

Our 18-month-old son, Graysen, grabbed a bottle of baby oil off the counter and drank a little bit around 10 a.m. yesterday morning while we were getting ready for church. He had followed my husband into the bathroom as he showered while I was with our 3-year-old. Gray climbed on the counter and grabbed the bottle. My husband heard him cough and that is when he saw him putting the bottle back on the counter. Gray made funny “yucky” faces because of how it tasted and we thought that was the worst that happened.

  • A couple of minutes later, he started acting lethargic. He was falling asleep sitting up and not answering anyone.

    JennaJoy Ingraham

    He was basically awake but non-responsive with the slowest blinks I’ve ever seen. When we picked him up, it was just dead weight and he kept trying to fall asleep in our arms. We called the on-call nurse only because of how he was acting. 

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  • Had he not acted any differently, we wouldn’t have thought anything of him drinking a little baby oil.

    The nurse directed us to call Poison Control, which started my panic. Poison Control asked some questions about his behavior along with his coughing and told us to take him to the ER now in case he aspirated any of it and it got in his lungs. 

    They mentioned that most parents don’t realize how dangerous baby oil can be if inhaled. Poison Control told us they would call the hospital to let them know what was coming and that we needed to take him now. Cue my intense panic. Casey took Gray and I stayed home with Bry.

    The doctor told Case that they needed to stay there until around 3 p.m. since that is when symptoms would start if anything major was wrong. If so, they wanted him to go to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital for the night.

  • They did X-rays on his little lungs and told Casey it’s the equivalent to you or I drinking gasoline.

    JennaJoy Ingraham

    What?! How did I not know that?! How has no one I have told so far known anything about how dangerous baby oil can be? Of course we should not have had it on the counter where he could crawl up and grab it. Absolutely my careless mistake. And a big one. 

    Before this, I had no idea that something made specially for babies could ever be so dangerous. I just had never heard of anything like this before!

    I don’t believe he drank much at all, but since it falls in the same category as lighter fluid and motor oil, apparently poison doesn’t take much.

  • After researching, I've learned it's a hydrocarbon and falls in the same categories as lighter fluid and motor oil. 

    This is an excerpt from the Poison Control website and exactly what they told us on the phone yesterday morning:

    “Coughing, choking, and fever are common signs of hydrocarbon aspiration. Lung irritation and pneumonia, even death, can result. Symptoms can happen quickly – within a couple of hours or even sooner. If there are no symptoms in 24 hours, the child should remain fine.”

    Casey brought mini man home around four hours later, and we are now just supposed to watch his breathing very closely to make sure nothing was missed, as he did not show any symptoms of hydrocarbon aspiration. Thank GOD! So unreal.

  • I felt so confused and so horrifically scared.

    JennaJoy Ingraham

    It’s baby oil. It’s for babies. I realize it’s not for them to drink, but we are told it’s fine to lather our children in it knowing they put their hands and fingers in their mouth. I never thought it could be poison to my child.

    Now I know that there are just so many other SAFE alternatives to baby oil. We used it because our parents used it. We used it because we were given bottles and bottles at baby showers because people think it’s safe. It’s a nursery staple for so many, but I think it’s time we change that.

  • We're just shocked this isn’t something many parents know about.

    And we feel like more people should know about how dangerous an old nursery staple could be. 

    So today I feel crazy anxious but extremely lucky as I cuddle my tiny guy and obsessively listen for any changes in his breathing. I also really feel the need to spread the word of how dangerous that little bottle all new mommies get at their baby shower or have next to the bath or changing table actually can be.

    Thank God it’s past 24 hours now and Gray seems OK.

  • I had just used it the night before and it was on the counter. Looking back, the lid must have not been on all the way.

    Had I known it was equivalent to poison for my child, I would have never had it just sitting on a counter or even in my house. I don’t think the packaging should change, I think it should disappear. From every shelf, in every store. I don’t see any reason it's needed.

    There are so many other safe alternatives that won’t possibly kill my child. Our family has chosen to try coconut oil. I also realize that’s quite a stretch to discontinue a product, so I would vote to at least have Poison Control’s number added to the the bottle.

  • This is something never talked about -- but I'm changing that.

    I was so nervous to share my experience with friends as a warning because I wasn’t sure how many already knew what I didn’t. After realizing that my closest friends and family had no idea something like this could ever happen, I figured maybe there were more unaware parents or caregivers that could benefit from our story.

    Our story has been shared over 30,000 times on Facebook and almost every comment is someone saying they had no idea baby oil could be so dangerous. Every parent is told to have their baby sleep on their back before they leave the hospital, but no one is ever told about that dangerous little bottle possibly in the bathroom, nursery, or diaper bag. I really feel that should change.

    This knowledge needs to be widespread. I would have literally never thought baby oil could be dangerous to my baby seeing as it was specifically made for him. I hope Graysen’s story can be used as a very real warning to other parents who just like us were blissfully unaware of the poison they may have in the next room.