Should Your Child Drink Caffeine?

ann condon meyersMorning coffee runs have become a staple in our daily lives. Many adults can not go a day without at least a cup of coffee, a glass of soda, or an energy drink. Daily doses of caffeine can cause us to fail to recognize the impact each beverage can have on our health.

For children and teens, the effects of caffeine can produce symptoms not always seen in adults. Caffeine is a stimulant that is dose responsive. The smaller a child is, the greater the stimulant effect on their body. Although rare, some heart arrhythmias in children are undiagnosed. In these cases, when caffeine is consumed, the stimulant effect of the caffeine can cause increased blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat. Occasionally, this can lead to a medical emergency. Recently, a teenage boy suffered a fatal heart attack from consuming a moderate amount of caffeine in a short amount of time. Every year, emergency room visits of children and teens with symptoms of rapid heartbeat and anxiety increase due to the consumption of caffeine. Consumption of caffeine and energy drinks by children and teens is strongly discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A recent medical study suggests that consuming caffeine disturbs the brain function of children during sleep, which can lead to detrimental effects on brain maturation. Another study shows that the effects of caffeine on teenagers differs from males to females. After consuming caffeine, males exhibit a lower heart rate and an increase in systolic blood pressure, compared to females. The National Institute of Health and Human Services is currently conducting over 70 studies on the effects of caffeine.

Caffeine is classified as a drug that can have negative effects on health, behavior and mood. Consuming excessive doses of caffeine in adults and children can cause the body to build a tolerance to the stimulant. This in turn causes humans to feel withdrawal when caffeine is absent. Beverage manufacturers include caffeine in their products to ensure that the public will consistently purchase their drinks.

Children should not drink caffeine because of these health concerns. To increase energy, help your child live a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, appropriate amounts of sleep and good nutrition. Children and teens need consistent and adequate sleep in order to feel energized throughout their day. Regular exercise and limited screen time can help ensure healthy sleep patterns. For optimal nutrition and hydration, children and teens should regularly consume water and milk (or milk substitutes) rather than drinks containing caffeine.

These simple lifestyle strategies will allow your child to feel energized without the consumption of harmful caffeine. Your child or teen will feel awake and ready for whatever comes next in their busy day.