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Kids and Caffeine = A Bad Mix

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Too much can even send your kid to the hospital.

girl drinking soda

Energy drinks have never been more popular ... especially with tweens and teens. But having too much caffeine can be so serious that it requires a call to a poison-control line or a trip to the emergency room, especially for people younger than the age of 19, reports KOCO.

"The number of calls that we've received about energy drinks has tripled, and I think that's just the tip of the iceberg," Oklahoma City Poison Control Center manager Lee McGoodwin said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the symptoms of caffeine poisoning can also include breathing trouble and diarrhea. If a trip to the ER is required, doctors may use a laxative or even stomach-pumping to prevent any more stimulants from entering the bloodstream.

We asked ML pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson how caffeine may affect your child. Here's what she had to say:

  • The jury is out on whether caffeine really demineralizes (thins) the bones. Some studies suggest it does; some say it doesn't.
  • Caffeine works best at low to moderate doses, increasing alertness, energy, and concentration; speeding and clarifying the flow of thought; increasing focus; and improving coordination.
  • Caffeine is a diuretic and can cause a little bit of dehydration (almost always very mild); it is also associated with headaches.
  • The main issue with caffeine and children is that caffeine tends to show up in drinks that are high in sugar and calories. These drinks (especially sodas) are associated with weight gain and, ultimately, obesity.
  • Worldwide, the average person consumes 76 mg of caffeine per day. But in the U.S. and Canada, this number jumps to around 220 mg, and in Sweden and Finland, people ingest more than 400 mg a day (and almost all of this is from coffee).
  • At high doses, negative effects begin to take over. Excessive caffeine can make you jittery or nervous; you can have trouble sleeping; it can make you feel anxious or restless; it can cause problems with concentration; it can upset the stomach; it can increase your heart rate (sometimes making it feel like your heart is pounding) or raise your blood pressure; and it can cause headaches. This is generally not enough to do serious damage, but enough to feel awful.
  • People used to think that caffeine stunted growth, but this turns out to be untrue.

Bottom line: Talk to your kids about their caffeine intake and warn them of the harmful side effects.

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