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How Safe Is Caffeine For Kids?

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It may be okay for moms to down four cups of coffee a day--but doctors say it can be downright dangerous for kids.


OK, your teen may love her iced grande caramel macchiato, but you may want to curb her coffee runs when you hear this: Younger caffeine abuse victims are showing up in the nation's emergency rooms.

Recent research from the University of Massachusetts Medical School recorded 4,600 caffeine-related calls to American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2005. More than 50 percent of these cases involved people under 19, and 2,345 of them were treated in a health care facility.

"As (caffeinated) drinks become more and more popular and as the use of them sort of spills over into younger crowds, we're noticing more calls into poison control centers, and more and more of those people are being recommended to go to their local health care facility to get at least an observation and possibly management and treatment," says Richard Church, a U-Mass Med School toxicologist and one of the study's authors.

"The vast majority of people who experienced some sort of intoxication from caffeine--it's the mild, mild symptoms," Church said. "We're talking about some nausea, headache, heart palpitations. People experience insomnia and anxiety. Also, people can experience some daily headaches."

"But it's sort of further down the line where we get concerned as emergency room physicians and as toxicologists. The nausea can lead to intractable vomiting--vomiting that just isn't necessarily very well controlled with routine medications we give in the emergency department. People who have predisposed seizure conditions can be at risk for having seizures. People with predisposed heart conditions can have potentially life-threatening abnormal rhythms in their heart."

So how can you tell if you or your teen is drinking too much?

"That's going to depend on the user," Church replied. "Everyone is going to be a little bit different. Like I said, people with predisposed health conditions absolutely are going to potentially have problems with lower doses than the young, healthy person without any prior medical conditions. There is a little bit of research that shows that up to five to 10 grams in somebody who is young and healthy, without any medical problems, could be potentially a lethal dose."

And as for your little one who begs for a sip: "There's really no place for caffeine in a child's diet," says momlogic contributor and pediatrician, Dr. Cara Natterson, M.D. "Just because caffeinated drinks are legal and accessible doesn't mean they are good for kids."

"Some believe caffeine stunts bone growth and thins the bones, while others argue that there is little proof of this," says Natterson. "But the acute effects of too much caffeine are undeniable--headache, jitteriness, even heart palpitations."

Do your kids drink too much caffeine?

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous July 21, 2008, 6:15 PM

This just sounds a bit silly to me. I mean OK everyone knows coffee is probably not the best thing to give your little ones but the caffiene in coffee is nothing compared to the caffeine in ice tea or soda or even the dark chocolate that the children I know guzzle all day long. The caffiene OD’s in emergency rooms are not from coffee the ones I know of are from those wonderful little caffeine pills that they sell to anyone who wants them. We made our own trip to the ER when my daughter stupidly listened to a friend and took several of them while she was studying for her exams. They not only have caffeine in them but also ephedrine, ginseng etc. I made her pay the bill and am pretty sure she won’t do anything like that again.

foxymama July 21, 2008, 6:36 PM

My husband and I went off caffiene for 30 days - eventually started the habit back up again. But for those 30 days, we were the happiest and healthiest we had been in a long time. Wish we could find it in us to remove it ientirely from our diet.

Jess July 29, 2008, 2:14 PM

I have heard about caffeine depleating bone marrow years ago. So I vowed to never give it to my child. It is just not necessary to give children soda. There are so many other better things for them to drink. If soda can eat away at car paint what do you think it is doing to your child?

Cary March 31, 2009, 5:50 PM

I now understand it. This is what happened when my son drank 8 cups of starbucks grande frappuccino and then he started he started to shake and when I talked to him he got very jittery and then he drank another 2 cups. He started jumping up and down and running everywhere and he didn’t sleep at all for 3 straight days and everyday he had 5 cups. I got worried because at school he went beserk and when he talked about his speech he talked in a ittery voice and then he just passed out. We took him to the emergency room and the doctors had to give him 3 tranquilizer shots beofre he fell asleep when he woke up we banned him from ever stepping foot at any coffee shop and we became a happy family.

network camera December 3, 2010, 6:54 AM

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