There was a time when coffee was only for grown-ups. These days children make daily stops to coffee shops before and after school to enjoy flavored drinks with large amounts of caffeine. There are also countless “energy” drinks that contain caffeine that can be harmful for children, not to mention that soda pop has become a mainstream sugar and caffeine crisis.
Most adults consume caffeine on a daily basis, but the effects on children can be harmful, especially those under 12 years old.
Caffeine is a drug that stimulates the central nervous system. It can be found in chocolate, coffee, tea, soda pop, energy drinks, and an increasingly number of products.
Canada is leading the way in discussing the issue of caffeine consumption, while the U.S. is lagging. Canadian maximum guidelines for intake of caffeine:
- 4–6 years 45 mg/day
- 7–9 years 62.5mg/day
- 10–12 years 85mg/day
*Those recommended maximums are equivalent to about one to two 12-ounce (355 ml) cans of cola a day.- St. Louis Children’s Hospital
Caffeine Content Amounts (estimated)
- 16 oz. Starbucks latte 150 mg.
- 16 oz. Starbucks brewed 330 mg.
- 16 oz. Starbucks brewed decaf 25 mg.
- 16 oz. McDonalds Mocha Frappe 125 mg.
- 12 oz Coca Cola Classic 30 mg.
- 12 oz Mountain Dew 46-55 mg.
- 5 oz- 5 Hour Energy shot 207 mg.
- 8 oz Monster Energy Drink 80 mg.
- 8.4 oz Red Bull 76-80 mg.
- 1 cup chocolate chips 104 mg.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Children on Caffeine
There is a segment of the population that is more sensitive to caffeine (page 3). Children who seldom consume caffeine will also feel the affects more dramatically than a normal consumer.
Common health problems that can occur:
- upset stomach
- increased heart rate
- increased blood pressure
- difficulty concentrating – especially in children with ADHD
- Sleeping problems can also lead to problems in school:
“The more caffeine the children had, the fewer hours they slept per night. Sleep-deprived children are more likely to struggle with controlling their emotions and actions, more likely to have attention and behavior problems and less likely to perform well in school, according to a 2005 study in the journal ‘Sleep.’”-Live Strong
- Obesity is also related to caffeine intake since many of these drinks contain a large amount of unnecessary sugar.
Break the Caffeine Habit
While children may enjoy an occasional caffeinated beverage from time to time, it is best to avoid caffeine to ensure your child remains focused in school and gets a full nights rest.
Ways to help your children break the caffeine habit:
- Model responsible caffeine consumption.
- Provide alternatives to caffeinated beverages.
- Talk to your children about the dangers of caffeine.
- Limit their caffeine consumption 6 hours before bedtime.