Most parents wouldn’t think of letting their preteen guzzle three or four cups of coffee a day. But many aren’t as vigilant about energy drinks. They often don’t know the content in energy drinks, which contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants such as guarana or taurine and seem like they might be good for you. Not so, say pediatricians -- in May, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a review of energy drinks stating that the caffeine and other stimulants found in them “have no place in the diet of children and adolescents.”
Many parents also aren’t aware that the caffeine content of some of these products may be contributing to a spike in cases of caffeine toxicity among teens, preteens, and even young children. Between 2006 and 2008, 1,200 cases of caffeine toxicity among kids younger than 6 years old were reported to poison control centers.
In WebMD’s Parenting community, energy drinks are a hot topic.
One mom poses a tough question: Should she intervene with her teenage babysitter, who “gulps energy drinks like they are going out of style,” claiming that although her mother forbids them, she needs them to stay awake and study?
This mom grapples with the ethical dilemma of “ratting out” her babysitter or minding her own business, but that aside, she wonders if she’s overreacting about the drinks themselves.
Another mom notes that her teenage son gets a caffeine rush, then crashes, after gulping energy drinks, and she’s decided to restrict them as a result.
Pediatrician Roy Benaroch, MD, weighs in: “There are worse habits that teenagers could have,” he points out. The big risks, he says, are jitteriness, insomnia, weight gain from extra calories, and cavities from the sugar.
But he notes that besides sugar and caffeine, energy drinks often have multiple other ingredients with unclear biologic effects. It’s always a good idea for parents to know exactly what’s in the beverages their kids are drinking, so read the labels carefully.
In addition, it's important to be familiar with the signs of caffeine toxicity, which include insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, fast heartbeat, and/or muscle tremors.