Mythbusters: Caffeine Consumption in Kids

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Kids and Caffeine

It’s possible you have heard “Caffeine is bad for your kids. Stay away!” However, that’s not always the case. Caffeine is a common substance consumed by both adults and children. It works by stimulating the central nervous system and can be found in a variety of beverages. Studies on the effects of caffeine in children are few, but we do know enough to debunk some common myths to ease worried parents. Let’s review:

Myth #1: Caffeine is not safe for kids.

It is suggested that up to 100 mg of caffeine (approximately one eight ounce cup of coffee) daily is generally safe for kids. Studies show that most children, ages 4-16, are getting an average of 16-65 mg per day. Some kids are more sensitive to caffeine and may experience more jitteriness or agitation. Some children may experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches, nausea and vomiting.

My concern is that most of the caffeine kids consume is in sodas, energy drinks or sweetened teas – all of which have high sugar content.

Myth #2: Caffeine will make my child wet the bed.

With most potty-trained children, this is simply not the case. However, consider that caffeine is a natural diuretic, so you may find your child needing to go to the restroom more often during the day. To prevent the chance of bed wetting, it may be a good idea to limit drinks of any kind within two hours of bedtime. Additionally, you should avoid caffeine in any child with a known bed wetting issue, as it will likely only make matters worse.

Myth #3: Caffeine causes inability to sleep.

If taken early in the day and in appropriate doses, this should not be a problem. However, some children may be more sensitive to caffeine, and you may see increased sleep onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep). The amount of lost sleep can accumulate over time, which can lead to daytime sleepiness and behavior problems. In general, you should work to establish a good bedtime routine for kids to ensure they are getting the recommended sleep for their age each night (around 9 to 11 hours). Your routine should not include caffeine intake close to bedtime.

Myth #4: Caffeine increases the risk of heart disease in children.

A child would have to consume a high dose of caffeine for this to be a concern. It should be noted that we have seen a marked increase in energy drink consumption through the years. Some energy drinks have been reported to contain dangerously high doses of caffeine (more than 500 mg, equivalent to five cups of coffee!) which could be toxic if consumed by children. In light of this, it is best to avoid energy drink consumption by children. In normal low doses however, caffeine poses no serious increase in your child’s risk of heart disease.

In the end you should consider what is best for your child individually. If you have additional concerns it is always a good idea to talk them over with your child’s pediatrician. Questions about caffeine intake are a great topic to address at your child’s next well check appointment. You can also ask your child’s pediatrician via a message on MyChart.

Schedule your child’s next well check today by calling Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group Pediatrics of Zachary at (225) 654-6140. The clinic is located at 18989 Old Scenic Highway Zachary, Louisiana 70791.

About Dr. Courtney James

James, Courtney Dr. James received her medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine in the Commonwealth of Dominica and her undergraduate degree from Dillard University in New Orleans. She completed her residency through the Our Lady of the Lake Pediatric Residency Program, where she served as Chief Resident and provided clinical leadership and mentoring for fellow residents. As part of her residency, she treated patients for the past year at the Pediatric Academic Clinic in Baton Rouge. She is Board Certified in Pediatrics and a member of the Board of Directors for Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana.
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