Caffeine and kids are an unhealthy mix, says Amy Seery, MD, a pediatrician with Ascension Medical Group and a faculty member of the Ascension Via Christi Family Medicine Residency program.
“Caffeine is not part of a normal diet for anyone under the age of 18,” she says, a recommendation that is in keeping with that of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Unfortunately, caffeinated drinks, such as energy drinks and sodas – which are high in sugar, another no-no for kids because it can lead to obesity and dental issues – are often marketed to adolescents and teens.
Caffeine is considered a stimulant, which is never appropriate for kids, says the AAP. Caffeine can cause blood pressure to rise, the heart to beat faster or irregularly and gastrointestinal issues such as an upset stomach or diarrhea, as well as increase agitation and disrupt sleep patterns, noted Seery.
“We know children are more susceptible to these kinds of effects so even a small amount of caffeine can cause these symptoms,” Seery said. “What causes alertness in adults can cause anxiety and poor behavior in kids.”
Too much caffeine caused the death of a 16-year-old South Carolina boy in May. According to news reports, the teen had consumed a latte, a large Diet Mountain Dew and an energy drink in the two hours before he collapsed because of an abnormal heart rate caused by the caffeine.