Should kids drink caffeine?

Morning coffee runs have become a staple in our daily lives. Many adults cannot go a day without at least one cup of coffee, glass of soda, or can of energy drink. Daily doses of caffeine can prevent us from recognizing the impact these beverages can have on our health.

For children and teens, the effects of caffeine can produce symptoms not always seen in adults. Caffeine is a stimulant that is dose-responsive. That means that the smaller a child is, the greater the stimulant effect on their body. Although rare, some heart arrhythmias in children are undiagnosed. In these cases, when caffeine is consumed, the stimulant effect of the caffeine can cause increased blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat. Occasionally, this can lead to a medical emergency. Recently, a teenage boy suffered a fatal heart attack from consuming a moderate amount of caffeine in a short amount of time. Every year, children and teens visit emergency rooms with symptoms of rapid heartbeat and increased anxiety due to the consumption of caffeine. For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages the consumption of caffeine and energy drinks by children and teens.

A recent medical study suggests that consuming caffeine disturbs the brain function of children during sleep, which can lead to detrimental effects on brain maturation. Another study shows that the effects of caffeine on teenagers differs between males and females. After consuming caffeine, males exhibit a lower heart rate and an increase in systolic blood pressure, compared to females. The National Institute of Health and Human Services is currently conducting more than 70 studies on the effects of caffeine.

Caffeine is classified as a drug that can have negative effects on health, behavior, and mood. Children and adults who consume excessive doses of caffeine can cause their bodies to build a tolerance to the stimulant. This in turn causes their bodies feel withdrawal symptoms when caffeine is absent. Beverage manufacturers include caffeine in their products to ensure that the public will consistently purchase their drinks.

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Children should not drink caffeine because of these health concerns. To increase energy, help your child live a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, appropriate amounts of sleep, and good nutrition. Children and teens need consistent and adequate sleep in order to feel energized throughout their day. Regular exercise and limited screen time also can help ensure healthy sleep patterns. For optimal nutrition and hydration, children and teens should regularly consume water and milk (or milk substitutes) rather than drinks containing caffeine.

These simple lifestyle strategies will allow your child to feel energized without the consumption of harmful caffeine. Your child or teen will feel awake and ready for whatever comes next in their busy day.

 

Updated Sept. 14, 2020

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