News | Published July 7, 2014 | Written by Craig Collison, MD, pediatrics, Mount Nittany Physician Group

Steer children away from problem-causing caffeine

Is your child regularly consuming caffeine? Approximately 73 percent of children and adolescents consume caffeine on a daily basis, according to a new study from a team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Caffeine is a stimulant found naturally in items such as coffee, tea and chocolate, but provides no known health benefits.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that healthy adults can consume up to 400 mg – about three to five cups – of caffeine a day and generally not experience any negative side effects, the FDA has not set caffeine recommendations for children and adolescents. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend caffeine for children at any level, but many children still consume it.

There are multiple sources of caffeine that kids of all ages can be exposed to and consume on a regular basis. The study found that children consumed caffeine from a variety of drinks, including soda, coffee, energy drinks and tea. Importantly, many diet sodas also contain caffeine.

If a nursing mother is ingesting caffeine, even young babies can be exposed to caffeine through breast milk. Since the FDA does not require manufacturers to list caffeine content on their labels, caffeine can also be found in products like certain jellybeans, gum, medications, chocolate chips, chocolate or coffee flavored ice cream, hot chocolate and more.

Even in seemingly smaller doses, such as half a cup of coffee or half a serving of soda, caffeine can have a negative effect on children’s bodies by raising blood pressure and heart rates. Caffeinated products can also cause other major health risks; for example, soda is the leading cause of childhood obesity in the United States.

As kids prepare to head back to school, they may argue that they need soda, coffee, energy drinks or candy to help them stay awake. The truth is that no one needs caffeine, especially not kids. The best drinks for children are water and milk, both of which are caffeine-free.

Allowing your kids to consume caffeine regularly may make them dependent on it in the future. Caffeine can also cause nervousness, jumpiness, shaky hands, difficulty sleeping, and trouble focusing. Consuming too much caffeine can also cause headaches, stomachaches, and racing heartbeats. In some cases, individuals try to replace sleep with caffeine, which can lead to serious sleep disorders such as insomnia.

If your children complain they’re too tired, encourage them to drink more water. When the body is dehydrated, feeling sluggish and sleepy is common, but water will help to stay alert and focused. Also encourage kids to stay active, as exercise is a natural energy booster.

Remember, children and caffeine can be a dangerous combination. It’s best to think twice before allowing your kids to consume this product.

Mount Nittany Physician Group Pediatrics offers locations in both Bellefonte and Boalsburg. With more than 100 providers, 20 specialties and 15 locations, Mount Nittany Physician Group specializes in providing personalized care for every stage of life. Learn more today at mountnittany.org/physician-group.

About the Author

Craig Collison, MD, pediatrics, Mount Nittany Physician Group

Craig H. Collison, MD, is a pediatrician with Mount Nittany Physician Group. He treats patients from the Physician Group's Boalsburg and Bellefonte locations. Read more about pediatric care at www.mountnittany.org/pediatrics.

Articles by Collison

  • Keeping kids active in colder weather

    It’s the time of year when the leaves begin to change, the temperature cools and the days get shorter. Kids are back to school and the Fall s...

  • Top 10 summer safety tips

    As the weather heats up, families will be spending more and more time outdoors gardening, taking walks and swimming. Whether you’re in your b...

  • Healthy sleep habits for children and adults

    Like all healthy habits, learning proper sleep hygiene should start at a young age and continue for life. In honor of May being designated National...

  • Is your home childproofed?

    Most people don’t realize what all needs to be done to ensure your home is childproofed. As a New Year’s resolution, check each room in...

See All Articles

The Foundation’s 21st Annual Golf Tournament raised $150,000 for the new Cancer Center.

More Info