Health Risks for Children on Caffeine

child caffeine

Caffeine, while socially accepted, is a psychoactive stimulant that has a real impact on the body. For adults, coffee and tea in the morning are practically a way of life. When combined with the antioxidants in the beverages, caffeine can be seen as beneficial to adult health while providing an energy boost after a long night. However, it can impact children differently, and may pose risks to their health.

  • Caffeine does not add nutrients to a child’s diet, but impacts brain chemistry which could alter natural brain development or cause abnormal behavior.
  • As any adult who misses their morning coffee can tell you, caffeine is a substance that is easy to become dependent upon, and children who stop using caffeine suddenly can experience withdrawal for up to ten days with symptoms including headaches, overtiredness, inability to sleep, crankiness, lethargy, constipation or depression.
  • The products that contain caffeine are also typically sugar bombs with lots of added sweeteners to counteract caffeine’s bitter taste.  The high levels of sugar in beverages like soda have been linked to increased risk of obesity, especially in children, because of empty calories mindlessly consumed.
  • While adults may experience an energy surge from a cup of joe, caffeine does not have the same effect for children. It only blunts their perception of tiredness rather than increasing total energy, which can lead to dangerous behavioral choices.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children consume not a small, or limited amount, but no caffeine.
  • Children who drink caffeine may enter a vicious cycle of not being able to sleep, becoming fatigued, performing poorly, drinking more caffeine to compensate, and then repeating the trend.
  • There has been an increase in caffeine related deaths and hospital visits. 13 deaths in connection with 5-hour Energy Drink, and five deaths in connection with Monster Energy Drinks are under examination by the federal Food and Drug Administration .
  • Marketing for caffeinated products echoes former cigarette marketing tactics, gearing sales towards children with images they are susceptible to in order to gain their business.

Data collected by Dr. William Warzak of the University of Nebraska Medical Center uncovered some alarming statistics in Caffeine Consumption in Young Children survey. The average caffeine intake for kids between 8 and 12 in the United States was the equivalent of three 12-ounce cans of soda, with children as young as age five taking in an amount akin to one can of soda. 75% of all children are thought to consume caffeine every day. While there are no official guidelines about how much children should consume, doctors believe that less  than three cans of soda a day is safe, while amounts higher than 100mg daily can start to be problematic, especially for children who are younger or small for their age. Parents should be vigilant about purchasing products containing caffeine and extra added sugar for children, and watch for sneaky sources of the substance which is commonly found in expected products like soda, energy drinks, and candy, but also in more unexpected places like chips, gum, lip balm, and sunflower seeds. Treat products containing caffeine as a once in a while treat, and eliminate the stimulant from daily consumption.

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