Caffeine and Kids
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Many of the food and drink items that children and teens crave have caffeine in them. You can find caffeine in soda, energy drinks, and chocolate candy—even hot cocoa. If these are some of your child’s favorites, he or she could be consuming more caffeine than you think.
Is caffeine bad for my child?
Caffeine is a stimulant. More than that, it is a drug. It is defined as a drug because it has a physiological effect on the body. This means it impacts how the body functions. In this case, it stimulates the central nervous system. In adults, this means it can make you more alert, even give you more energy. In children, caffeine can raise blood pressure and interfere with sleep. It can make children less aware of being tired. It can affect their moods and make anxiety worse. They can even suffer headaches from caffeine withdrawal.
Not a lot is known about how caffeine affects a child’s developing brain. But kids (especially young children) can be sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
What about my teenager?
As more and more teens trade soda for energy drinks, they have become a focal point of caffeine consumption.
According to Health Canada, energy drinks are not recommended for children because of their high levels of caffeine, and other ingredients. In some cases, one energy drink could have more caffeine than the safe daily intake for many children and teens.
Path to improved health
It is difficult to completely avoid caffeine. But you can work to minimize the amount of caffeine your child consumes each day.
A good start is to try to eliminate soda from your child’s diet. If your child drinks a lot of soda, you may need to start slowly. Begin by limiting the number of sodas your child drinks until you get to zero. Instead, offer your child water or milk to drink. These are two of the best drinks for kids.
It may be more difficult to convince teens to limit their beverages to milk and water. Your teen may complain about needing the energy boost caffeine provides. If so, encourage them to exercise. Working out can cause your teen to sleep better and have more energy.
Things to consider
Many caffeinated beverages are also loaded with sugar. Drinking sodas, flavored coffees, and energy drinks can add hundreds of calories to your child’s diet. Over time, this can cause obesity. Sugar also increases the risk for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
The sugary drinks are also harmful to your child’s teeth. They can cause tooth decay and cavities.
Overdoses are rare but do happen. Signs of a possible caffeine overdose can be mild or severe. Mild symptoms include shaky hands (jittery) and an upset stomach. Severe symptoms include high blood pressure, seizures, and even coma (loss of consciousness).